Friday, November 05, 2004

 

It's not (all) about the morality, baby

The news that morality was given as the main reason for 22% of Bush voters has caused quite an uproar on the listserv. Many posters are determined to reclaim morality from the right, which has the "wrong" definition of morality; they urge their fellow liberal Christians to resist the appropriation of the terminology of morality, and to discover ways to use such terminology themselves to fight the apparent tide of mindless Christian voters:

As long as we allow the political and religious right to continue to arrogate the words "moral" and "ethical" to themselves and to frame political discourse according to their own (mis)definitions of those terms, we will continue to lose these contests.


I personally want to retrieve from the immoral grasp of the Christian right my personal choice of being pro-life, anti-war, anti- state decreed murder (aka, death penalty), vegetarian, preferential option for the poor (my Catholic social justice mantra), feminist/ liberation theologian, etc., etc. We have for too long let the big mouths on the right- and to be fair, the left-- frame the debate and frame the
terminology...
Now, mind you, I am highly sympathetic to the notion that being a Christian is only compatible with the views expressed by the religious right is, frankly, absurd. Kudos to those who want to undertake such a reclamation of religio-political identity. However, more and more questions are being raised as to the validity of the inferences drawn from the exit polls. The Swanky Conservative has a breakdown of the statistics showing how, when we combine terrorism and Iraq, posed as two separate questions by the pollsters, the percentages work out a bit differently: 20.4% of Bush voters cite terrorism or Iraq as their primary reason for voting for Bush, compared to 12.95% of Kerry voters. Morality is the primary issue for 17.6% of Bush voters, 3.96% of Kerry voters. Check out Pejmanesque and The Volokh Conspiracy also.

UPDATE: Washington Times columnist Clarence Page has some additional stats:

"But a closer look at Election Day exit polls indicates the reputed rise in social conservatism may be a false media-generated perception. The exit polls conducted nationally by research companies Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International showed "moral values" with 22 percent, beat "economy and jobs" (20 percent), "terrorism" (19 percent) and "Iraq" (15 percent) as the issue of greatest importance to voters. The Pew Research Center found similar results with a post-election poll of 1,209 voters. But when Pew offered a wider range of choices, "moral values" fell to only 14 percent, behind "Iraq" (25 percent) and ahead of "jobs and the economy" (12 percent) and "terrorism" (9 percent.)
The biggest category turned out to be "other," which included such options as "honesty" and dislike off Bush or Kerry, although if you combine Iraq and terrorism (36 percent) the way the Bush campaign constantly did, they beat every other category."

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