It's All Relative: The Sunday paper here in my hometown is full of op-eds decrying the fact that exit polls showed people were motivated to vote by "moral values" - intimating that the less urban and academic areas that had a majority vote for Bush are hotbeds of homophobia, bigotry and scary religious people. The spin has been unspun elsewhere in the blogosphere. But here's something else to consider. Buried in thisNew England Journal of Medicine article is a table that ranks the most important issues for voters in previous presidential elections, from 1992 to 2000. Pollsters didn't ask about "moral values" in 1992, but they did in 1996 and 2000, and guess what? They were the most important issue in those elections, too - for 40% of voters in 1996, when President Clinton was re-elected, and for 35% in 2000, when Gore won the popular vote. Both of those are much higher percentages than the 22% of the electorate who named moral values the most important issue this election.
Does that mean Clinton and Gore relied on the homophobic, ignorant masses? Or does it mean that our moral values have changed dramatically in the past four years, from those that Democratic elites deem appropriate to ones that they deem abominable? Neither, of course. It means the phrase "moral values" is extremely nebulous and can be defined in any way one wants to suit whatever purpose one wants when intrepreting exit poll data, anyway. Chances are, when people rank "moral values" as their top reason for voting, they mean the moral values of the candidates, which basically boils down to which of the two they trust the most.
Sorry, pundocracy. The lesson of the election is that you have to convince the electorate to trust you to do a good job. Just like any other job interview. posted by Sydney on
11/07/2004 09:17:00 AM