By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Even though they seem to have disappeared from the radar screens of most professional pollsters, values voters, the voting block that handed George W. Bush the victory in 2004, may be poised to do the same for Sen. John McCain in 2008.
According to a report posted on Townhall.com by Michael Medved, a conservative political commentator, values voters are still alive and well in the USA and may do the same thing they did in 2004 – surprise even the most sophisticated pollsters.
“Considering the hugely significant role of values voters in the last presidential race, it makes no sense for leading electoral experts to assume that they’ve become suddenly irrelevant in 2008,” Medved writes. “Did the social conservatives who tipped the scales to Bush and Cheney in a tough race four years ago somehow vanish or give up?”
Conventional wisdom says people are too concerned about the financial crisis to worry about abortion, gay marriage and gun rights. Many think Barack Obama’s smooth rhetoric about unity and respect has “neutralized” these moral issues in the minds of Christian voters. Still others say social conservatives are just not that enamored with John McCain to support him.
“For several reasons, these assumptions may look shaky on Election Day,” Medved says.
First of all, while it’s true that McCain has never been a favorite of Christian conservatives, the nomination of Sarah Palin largely offset those concerns and brought many skeptics back into McCain’s camp. Being so vocally pro-life, Palin has also helped focus the nation’s attention on the abortion records of both candidates, which has energized pro-life voters across the nation.
Second, “Obama efforts at ‘Christian outreach’ have largely failed,” Medved says. “Obama may claim he understands and sympathizes with the concerns of religious traditionalists, but he’s running on the most pro-abortion platform in major party history (calling for a return to federal funding for abortions for poor women) and he famously suggested that the question of when life begins was ‘above my pay grade.’”
Third, there’s no reason to assume that the universal concern about the state of the economy will make religious conservatives toss aside their concerns about the future of marriage and the protection of the unborn.
Solid proof that values still matter to voters in the midst of this economic crisis is already occurring in California, Medved points out. A contentious and highly emotional battle has been raging in the state for months over the issue of gay marriage and a proposed amendment to the constitution that will declare marriage to be between a man and a woman only. Known as “Proposition 8,” values voters are already making the difference in polls showing support for the amendment to be outweighing the opposition. This also means that values voters will be turning out in droves on Election Day in California, something that may bode well for the McCain-Palin ticket.
“This should encourage values conservatives to recognize that many (and perhaps most) Americans still care deeply about moral issues,” Medved said.
He also points out that controversies regarding family issues are tied to economic security in the minds of many Americans.
“Nothing brings long-term security and prosperity more reliably than a stable, traditional family life and nothing predisposes people for a life of poverty more than out-of-wedlock birth and marital chaos. The educational success of our children . . . depends more on the values they learn at home than the quality of their schools. Learning to work hard, to save money and to live within your means remains a dependable path to economic advancement and the failure to learn those lessons (especially by political and business leaders) helped to create the current crisis.”
Additionally, people are worried about big government “spread the wealth” programs, federally mandated “universal pre-school,” the elimination of existing restrictions on abortion that include parental consent laws, and similar expansions of federal power that would make families and parenthood less important and less necessary.
“No wonder that married voters already tilt decisively toward McCain, according to all polls,” Medved writes. “The most recent IBD-TIPP survey gives him a margin of 50 percent to 43 percent. Obama leads among the public in general only because of his huge lead among single voters (about a third of the electorate).
“According to exit polls in 2004, Bush won married voters 57 percent to 42 percent. If McCain comes close to that margin he too will win the election.”
Values voters, most of them married people who care deeply about religious faith, traditional virtues and family issues, may once again be the largely overlooked voting block that makes the difference on Nov. 4 in many critical battleground states.
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