3:00 – 4:30 p.m.
Michael Barone, Senior Writer, U.S. News & World Report; Co-Author, The Almanac of American Politics
E.J. Dionne, Jr., Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution; Syndicated Columnist, The Washington Post
Andrew Kohut, President, Pew Research Center
Luis Lugo, Director, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
LUIS LUGO: Good afternoon. One of the contributions I want us Hispanics to make to this country is to make sure every meeting starts and ends on time. I just need every other ethnic group to collaborate with me and show up on time here. Good afternoon, Michael. (Laughter.) Thank you all for coming and our thanks to the Brookings Institution for cosponsoring this event. My name is Luis Lugo and I am the director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The Forum, as many of you know, is a nonpartisan organization and we do not take positions on policy debates.
It is my pleasure to welcome you to what we believe will be a very thought-provoking discussion on the impact of religion on the just completed national election. As anyone who has picked up a newspaper or watched the news in the last couple of weeks can tell you, one of the biggest stories to come out of the presidential election is the prominent role played by the so-called moral values voters. Exit polls taken on November 2nd reveal that 22 percent of voters cited moral values as their most important concern, seemingly trumping even terrorism and the economy. The same exit poll showed that supporters of President Bush were 4 to 1 in that category over supporters of Senator Kerry, so a heavily Bush vote.
For many in the press and elsewhere, these findings confirm the pre-election conventional wisdom which held that if President Bush won it would be because of a tidal wave of support from religious conservatives driven to the poll by moral issues such as abortion and gay marriage. The reference there of course was to those 4 million evangelicals whom Karl Rove believes were “missing in action” in 2000.
But the conventional wisdom has not gone unquestioned. In this case, some of the nation’s keenest political observers have argued that these exit polls are misleading. In particular, they charge that the poll oversimplified the electorates views by offering them an attractive catch-all phrase, “moral values,” that could be attached to a host of different concerns, thus making it very suspect as a means of gauging actual voter priorities.
We will of course address that issue today, but we also want to explore other important religion-related questions that surrounded this election. For instance, was the now-famous religion gap, or more accurately, church attendance gap that was so evident after the 2000 election also present this time around? And if so, does it portent more political polarization in the next four years? Does the president’s surprisingly better showing among Latino voters, especially among evangelicals, presage the beginning of a major Hispanic shift towards the GOP? If so, might religion have anything to do with that development?
Speaking of evangelicals, John Green at the University of Akron estimates that the president increased his already impressive share of white evangelical voters from 2000 to 2004, going from 72 to 78 percent. Do Democrats have any hope of being competitive again in this once-traditionally Democratic constituency, which, incidentally, comprises roughly a quarter of the electorate? And what is one to make of the fact that Bush won the Catholic vote by a rather wide margin among regular mass attenders, and that against the first Catholic presidential candidate since John F. Kennedy?
Finally, we heard a lot about 527s in this election: those well-funded parallel campaign organizations named for a section in the IRS code. But what about what I called the 316s, as in John 3:16, the evangelical’s favorite Bible verse — very well-coordinated, church-based political mobilization that took place in this past election? What might this mean for the future role of religion and electoral politics in this country?
Here to discuss these and other topics are three of the best-known political analysts in Washington.
Our first panelist, Andrew Kohut, is one of the most respected pollsters in the country, a reputation that only grew on election day when the margins in the presidential race were exactly what he and his team had predicted in their last pre-election poll. Andy has been the director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press since 1993. Prior to that he was the founder of Princeton Research Associates as well as president of the Gallup Organization. He’s also a regular commentator on television, radio, and in major newspapers. In the interests of full disclosure I should tell you that Andy is the president of the newly created Pew Research Center, which includes not only his people in the press shop but also the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. In other words, he’s my boss. But for this event, Andy, yo soy el presidente, okay? (Laughter.) Let’s be clear on that.
Now, one of the many interesting findings of Andy’s post-election poll was the following tidbit: “Television remains the dominant source of campaign news, and Fox News has emerged as the leading TV outlet for election news.” That’s on page 10, I believe. I think I’ve memorized that little document by now.
If you watched election coverage on Fox you certainly would have noticed the important role our next panelist, Michael Barone, played in that election night telecast as he analyzed the incoming returns not just state by state but county by county, sometimes even precinct by precinct. He is quite literally a walking almanac of American politics. In addition to his gig on Fox, Michael is also a senior writer for U.S. News and World Report and is the author of a number of books, including “The New Americans: How the Melting Pot Can Work Again,” and, as I alluded to above, “The Almanac of American Politics,” which is published biannually by National Journal.
Finally, we are delighted to have E.J. Dionne with us. Again, in the interest of full disclosure, you should know that E.J. is co-founder of the Pew Forum and currently serves as a senior advisor. He’s also a senior fellow here at Brookings. I was going to say a senior columnist but that’s a lot of “seniors” in there, E.J. You’re just getting old, son. Did you get that injury by kicking a Republican, by the way?
MR. DIONNE: No, just the TV set when they called Ohio.
MR. LUGO: Oh, I see. Okay.
He is also a professor of government at Georgetown University and a regular commentator on National Public Radio. In addition, E.J. is the editor of more than 10 volumes, including the best-selling “Why Americans Hate Politics,” and most recently “Liberty and Power: A Dialogue on Religion and U.S. Foreign Policy,” which is co-published by Brookings and the Pew Forum.
Now, before I turn things over to our panelists let me kindly ask everyone, please turn off your cell phones and pagers. Thank you very much. Now, without further ado, Andy Kohut.
ANDREW KOHUT: Thank you, Luis. I’m happy to be here. Certainly religion is one of the most important elements in American voting behavior. I wrote a book with Scott Keeter and John Green about it. It was published, called “The Diminishing Divide.” It was published by this institution. It sold 36 copies. I’m sure if what I say interests you we can spike the sales dramatically. (Laughter.) But I want to make clear that my point of view is that the importance of religion in the Bush victory has been considerably overstated. I’d like to give you some of the facts that I have that lead me to this conclusion. And I have some pictures to show you, but the first, most important thing is let’s start by looking at the role that religion played in who voted before we get to the role that religion played in the way people voted.
Now, turnout was a decisive factor in this election. The pre-election polls, which mostly showed a slight lead for President Bush, almost all had an even race when the polls were based upon all registered voters. That is, before the sample was narrowed to likely voters. And in fact, some polls had a slight Kerry margin. So the difference between a Bush margin and an even election, or even a Kerry win, was turnout. And we also know that turnout was very high in this election and both parties did a terrific job of getting out their vote, but the Republicans in the end did a better job than the Democrats.
Let me show you some of this. The first slide shows the trend in party affiliation. In the four previous elections there was a slight plurality of Democrats over Republicans in the makeup of the electorate: 35-39 in 2000 and in this election it’s 37-37. In part I think this reflects turnout. In part it may also reflect that party affiliation had been changing in the direction of the Republican Party, but a very significant part of this is turnout.
We see the same pattern with regard to the composition of this electorate with respect to ideology with the percentage of conservatives increasing from 30 percent in 2000 to 34 percent in the current – in the election that we had last week – two weeks ago. Now, I should add that these data are all from the national exit poll.
Well, were they social conservatives? Were they Christian conservatives? What kind of people were they? I think the data suggests they were all kinds of conservatives and all kinds of Republicans who turned out in very large numbers in this campaign and helped reelect President Bush.
Here is a rather complicated cross-tab. It shows a breakdown of conservatives by how frequently they attend church over the past two elections. And as you can see, the percentage of conservatives who attend “weekly” went up by one point and the percentage of conservatives who attend “less frequently” went up by 2 percentage points. So it wasn’t just a matter of religions conservatives constituting a larger percentage of this electorate; it also had to do with less religious conservatives as well.
We see the same pattern in party affiliation. Yes, there were more Republicans but there were more “religious” Republicans and more “less religious” Republicans. And I don’t think you could conclude, just on this data or infer based on this data that it was really Christian conservatives or religious conservatives who have turned out. Now, unfortunately, the exit poll folks changed their question, so we don’t have a clear trend measure on the participation of white evangelical Protestants. Other elements in this mix included the fact that this was not a more religious electorate that attended church significantly more often than the electorate four years ago. We had 16 percent say they attended “more than weekly,” 26 percent “weekly;” a total of percent 42 percent, the same percentage who said “weekly” or “more than weekly” four years ago; a slight increase in the percent more than once a week and a slight increase in the percent who said less than once a week. There is virtually no sampling error, by the way, in these surveys because they are samples of 10,000 – more than that; they’re 12,000 I think.
As I was about to say, the exit poll does not have a trend on white evangelical Protestants but we do. Our likely voters sample I have a high regard for. It produced a pretty accurate estimate of the vote. And if we compare it with – its profile with that of our likely voter sample four years ago, we get about the same percentage of white evangelical Protestants, white mainline Protestants, and so on and so forth. We see no evidence of higher participation on the part of white evangelical Protestants. Now, let me clarify that. It’s not that we don’t see – we see evidence of no more participation – there undoubtedly is more – but not relatively more. The whole category of – the whole electorate increased over this period of time in terms of turnout but the relative participation is not much greater.
We also see an electorate, judging 2004 to 2000, which had broadly similar views on social issues. On abortion, for example, 56 percent favored keeping abortion legal – 54 percent versus 56 percent four years ago, a small increase in the percentage of people saying “illegal in all cases” – in fact, a significant increase, but I don’t think you would characterize this as a major shift in terms of social conservatism, especially since the exit poll also found 60 percent of the voters saying they favored either gay marriages or civil unions as a way of legitimizing the situation of gay couples.
When we look at the vote by religion we do see what Luis was alluding to, and that is the very strong margin of support that President Bush enjoyed among white evangelical Protestants. He had a 59-percentage-point advantage among white evangelical Protestants, an 11-point among mainline Protestants. Only among Jewish voters, seculars, and African Americans do we see Kerry having an advantage in this table. But there is no indication in this survey that this represented a more significant gain for Bush than was the case of his gains that are apparent across the board. This slide shows that Bush had a 3-percentage-point increase in his vote over four years ago, and his relative percentage point increase was higher among people who attend church less often than those who attend church on a weekly basis. Similarly, while he gained among Protestants and Catholics, his percentage point gain was greater among Protestants who do not attend church weekly and among Catholics who do not attend church weekly than among their more church-attending counterparts.
Clearly one of the issues that – as Luis noted, one of the issues that sparked this notion that moral values and religion played a greater factor was the question that the exit pollsters used in their survey this year that was quite different than what they had used four years ago. They asked voters to pick from a list of five or six issues as to which one was most on their mind when they were casting a ballot, and the mix of issues included Iraq, the economy, health care, and a couple of others as well as a new category, “moral values.” And moral values, to the surprise of many of us on election night, out-polled, out-drew the other specific issues. I think the percentage was 22 percent for moral values and 18 percent or 17 percent for Iraq and smaller percentages for the economy and terrorism.
I think that this comparison, because of the kind of question it is and the lack of comparability between these categories, overstated the influence of moral values in the religious factor in this election. I think we have an item here that is, to some extent, a slogan. It’s certainly a broad general phrase, unlike specific mentions of the war in Iraq or even the economy, and I think it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison; it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison. And in fact, when we conducted surveys throughout the campaign and we asked people in their own words, what are the issues that mattered most to you in making a choice between President Bush and Senator Kerry. The moral values itself never registered in our surveys. Yes, abortion did; yes, gay marriage did, but at very low levels, nowhere near comparable to what was seen in this exit poll.
So in our post-election survey we did a little experiment. We repeated the question that the exit pollsters used, asking voters to choose from five or six items, including moral values, and in the other half of our sample we asked people on an open-ended basis to tell us what issues were on their mind, and we got quite different answers. In the fixed list column, which is that first column, we got 27 percent mentioning moral values – the most frequently given response, just like in the exit polls. Iraq came second, then economy, then terrorism. But in the open-ended question we just got 14 percent saying anything remotely close to moral values, either moral values itself, social issues such as – one of the social issues such as abortion or gay marriage. In my view, even the 9 percent represents an overstatement because this poll was conducted in a three-day period where people heard nothing but moral values, moral values, moral values. I cannot believe that we would not pick this up in open-ended questions before the election but would after the election.
Nonetheless, the exit polls have put this issue and this finding on the map, and it’s part of the culture right now but I continue to think that it represents a good deal of an exaggeration in this poll. When we followed up and we asked people, what did you mean when you say moral values, among the people who chose moral values, it is a mixture of things. Gay marriage, abortion most often are the single issues that people referred to. They also mentioned qualities of candidates, religious references and traditional values. People who did not choose moral values similarly gave a scatter of different kinds of answers, but 15 percent also said “means nothing” or “I don’t know.”
Now, look — I’ll close this quickly. I think moral values and moral issues are important elements in politics, were important elements in the votes cast by American voters on Election Day, but the leadership gap was the one that was decisive in my mind. It was what convinced many independents to vote for President Bush and enthused many Republicans who were not enthusiastic about President Bush in the spring, to go out and cast their ballot for him. We saw, for example, in the early spring – or late spring rather – a significant number of moderate and liberal Republicans saying they were less satisfied with their choice of candidates than they were four years ago. Well, by the general election campaign, that had changed. The GOP, I think successfully, turned the election into a referendum – from a referendum on Bush to a referendum on Kerry, starting with the Swift Boat controversy and culminating in the convention, and it remained that throughout the election. I think the debates almost turned it around for Kerry but in the end, people could not get comfortable with him on the leadership dimension.
We did a double-back survey in the course of October, the last week of October, where we re-interviewed swing voters and we found that half of them had committed to one of the two candidates, and among the people who said they committed to Senator Kerry, 61 percent said it was a hard choice. Among the people who had committed to President choice, 38 percent said it was a hard choice. I think this was a very difficult decision for many voters who were on the fence, torn between a president they saw as flawed but another candidate – but an alternative candidate who they saw as not a strong enough leader.
In short, they went – in a time of trouble I think they went for a more straight-talking, tougher-sounding candidate, and while moral issues and religion played the important role it typically does, I don’t believe it was the decisive role. And I think one of the legacies of an exit poll that gave us fits is this finding, which has played into the narrative of explaining this election.
MR. LUGO: Thank you, Andy. Very, very helpful. (Applause.)
MR. BARONE: Let me just begin with a little gloss on what Andrew is saying on the question of moral values. This Pew poll presents more texture and background on moral values than the exit poll did on election night, and I think we see a similar pattern. When we give people the fixed list we see more people picking moral values than volunteer it on an open-ended basis. But we also see that if you aggregate the number of people who pick on the fixed list or on the open-ended part of the question, the number of people who pick the different foreign policy issues or the different domestic issues is larger than the number who picked moral values. On the fixed list, 36 percent picked foreign issues, 32 domestic, and 27 moral values. On the open-ended list, 34 percent picked foreign issues, 16 percent picked domestic issues – significantly less interestingly – and 14 percent moral values.
So moral values is important. It’s significant. Concerns about that kind of thing matter to many voters but not to a majority. We’re not looking at everybody here and we’re not really looking at the largest building block of the electorate, even when you separate people according to the type of concerns — foreign, domestic, moral – that you get in response to this question. And we see that also some of the people are concerned about the candidates’ personal moral values – their personal morality. I think this is probably even more the case in 2000 when George W. Bush was running as a moral contrast with the incumbent president, Bill Clinton. And he didn’t have to spell out for voters what he was talking about when he said he was going to bring honesty and integrity back to the White House.
So moral values, that’s part of our politics, but I think what’s interesting here – and it’s unsettling to many people – is that religious belief, degree of religious observance, moral values or principles, if you will, seems to be the real cleaving demographic in this electorate, and it has been really since the 1980s, or has emerged as such in the 1980s. I mean, if you go back to the 1970s and you look at some of these issues, they really didn’t separate the parties very much, whether you’re talking about the politicians or the voters. In fact, in 1976, the first year after the — presidential election year after the Roe v. Wade decision, it was the Republican candidate who was more in favor of abortion rights than the democratic candidate, Jimmy Carter, who signaled that he was more opposed to abortion. In fact, the more anti-abortion candidate has won six of the eight presidential elections held since the Roe v. Wade decision, which I think sort of negates the assumption that you can’t oppose abortion and win a presidential election. It’s happened a number – it happened three-quarters of the time.
And so, that realignment, I think it was one of the key events there. In 1984, Ronald Reagan, preparing to be re-nominated for a second term, went to the Dallas – to speak to an evangelical group. I mean, it’s unusual for a presidential nominee to speak to any major group in the course of a presidential election before his nominating speech. I don’t think either of the nominees did that this time. As memory serves me, Bill Clinton I think spoke to a feminist group in 1992 in New York before his nomination, but I stand ready to be corrected if I’ve mixed up on the facts on this. But Reagan spoke to an evangelical group, and I think many of us in the political press were a little puzzled by why he would do this and thought it just a bit bizarre that he did so, but I think that was an important moment when he signaled that the Republican Party and this Republican president were sympathetic to their concerns; they cared about them, in contrast to the much more secular approach of the Democratic Party.
And so, voters and politicians have aligned themselves along with these moral stands, and these alignments that we’ve seen have remained remarkable steady, even as issues change. I mean, in 1992 we heard a lot about abortion, or choice, as it is called by pro-abortion rights candidates. We heard a lot about that in ’96. In 2004 we’re hearing about the Iraq war as probably the primarily talked about and decision-making issue, and yet the political alignments are pretty much the same and quite similar when you look at the numbers that Andy Kohut put up on the board here. As he said, religious conservatives are only part of it, but they continue to be part of the equation here and part of the equation that we see when we examine the electorate and the different segments thereof.
What I think was most interesting about this election is that we had a huge rise in turnout. You know, you could say this was a rerun election, a rematch election and in the past, rematch elections have had declining turnout: Eisenhower faces Stevenson for a second time in 1956; turnout goes down in absolute numbers and as a percentage of voters. Bill Clinton faces Ross Perot and a decorated World War II veteran for the second time in 1996; turnout goes down not only in percentage of eligibles but also in absolute number of voters. This year George W. Bush is facing a liberal Democrat who spent much of his career in the Senate. For the second time, turnout went way, way up. And turnout went up about 12 percent nationally, at least as we look at the last figures. Washington State is still counting votes, and counting them the way a Democratic judge wants them to be counted, apparently.
So there are big turnout increases on all sides – up 12 percent generally. John Kerry’s total number of votes is up 12 percent as compared to Al Gore’s in 2000. George W. Bush’s turnout is up 20 percent from what it was four years ago. That’s a huge, big jump, up from 50 million to 60 million. If you’d told most political reporters before this election that total turnout was going up from 105 million to 118 million they would have said, the Democrats will win; they’ll register all those people in the central city neighborhoods who go heavily Democratic, and that means they’re going to win, and young people who are supposedly afraid of the draft, and all that sort of thing.
It turns out that the increase among Bush voters was greater than the increase among Kerry voters, and greater by a really big margin. And that was a phenomenon that was true, interestingly, by less of a margin in the target states than it was in the non-target states. If you look at the October battleground states, the ones that both parties were emphasizing in October ’04, you see the Bush turnout was up 23 percent, Kerry turnout up 21 percent, almost as much. That’s one of the reasons why we only saw three states change – New Mexico and Iowa going toward Bush and New Hampshire going toward Kerry. And it’s also why we saw Ohio and Florida stay solid for Bush. Bush was able to turn out people from all over the state – in small counties, in medium-sized counties, in suburban rings and so forth, and even to some extent in central cities.
Bush’s turnout effort was directed at volunteers – 1.4 million volunteers around the country; there was professional staff supervision – primarily volunteers acting out of love or affection for the candidate. The Democratic effort was primarily run by paid workers, although there were some volunteers – some significant number of volunteers as well. You had paid people by the labor unions; you had paid people by the billionaire-funded 527 organizations.
So they both turn out in the battleground states. Interestingly, in the states where there was less in the way of organizational efforts, Bush does better than Kerry by substantial numbers. In the safe Bush states, Bush turnout was up 21 percent; Kerry turnout up only 12 percent. In the safe Kerry states – and here’s some fascinating numbers – Bush turnout up 16 percent; Kerry turnout up only 5 percent, and Kerry turnout actually down in New York City and New York metropolitan area – 911 I think has some effect there in any case. Those are the numbers. That did not put Bush in the electoral vote margin for those states but he gained ground on both sides.
So when we’re saying – as Andrew did correctly – that religious conservatives, and for that matter seculars, were not a much larger share of the electorate than they were in the year 2000, we must also recognize that that means there was a whole, big increase in number of them that turned out; it’s just that they didn’t turn out by a larger increase than people of other religious beliefs or moral beliefs. So in that sense, the Bush efforts to get increased turnout among these people did succeed in a vast way and you found a real surge in turnout going up there. And as we saw, it seems that – it’s interesting that the volunteer model, this sort of civic connectedness, Alexis de Tocqueville model, did better than the union-paid workers model in turning people out – marginally in the battleground states, and to the extent it was used, much more so in the other states.
Let me just conclude with talking about the data here that’s fascinating to me about the media landscape. Twenty-five years ago I had the theory that you could cover a presidential election, fall campaign, from five rooms. If you could gain admittance to the two candidate morning meetings where they decided what message they were going to pitch for that day, and then if you could get access to the three broadcast network meetings where they decided what would go on the 6:30 news, you could learn pretty much all of what Americans were going to learn about the presidential campaign that day. That’s where all the big decisions were made. The rest of it was just execution and so forth. Those five rooms were the secret. This campaign you could not cover from 100 rooms. We’ve got a new media landscape out there. And what we’ve seen is the precipitous decline and, in my view, discrediting of old media, particularly the New York Times and CBS News. They were professional hit men for the Democratic Party, or at least they attempted to be such in the campaign. I have not seen such biased and unfair and hortatory coverage in the press in my 32 years in Washington when I’ve been close to media people throughout that whole period of time. I think it’s genuinely shocking.
And also, it didn’t work. September 8th, Dan Rather presents the Texas Air National Guard records, carefully typed up on Microsoft Word in 1971. (Laughter.) Within 14 hours the blogosphere has exposed this. FreeRepublic.com, PowerLineBlog.com, and LittleGreenFootballs.com have exposed these as fraudulent documents. Rather, 12 days later, admits that he doesn’t have full confidence in the documents anymore and says he’d like to “break the story.” You know, you want to say, Dan, the story was broken 11 days and 10 hours ago. You’re missing the story. That was a blatant attempt to influence the election against George W. Bush. It backfired.
A New York Times story, October 25th about the missing 377 tons of weapons, which turned out weren’t missing or weren’t 377 tons and so forth. The Kerry campaign, unaccountably in my view, emphasizes this story for four of the five weekdays of the last full week of the campaign, I think to their detriment – again, I think, a blatant attempt to affect the election in favor of Kerry and against Bush.
And the old media treatment — or determination not to treat the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth group story. Old media did not want to cover this. You’ve got a lot of unfair coverage, although you’ve also got some fair coverage. The Washington Post, for example — Michael Dobson’s articles I think were a genuine attempt at good journalism and were well done. And the Kerry people were confident they could ignore the issue because they thought old media would bury the story. Old media did bury the story for a long time, wanted to bury the story – loved the Kerry narrative of a war hero comes back to criticize campaign against unjust war and didn’t want to find any faults in it, but the story got out anyway over new media. And I’m fascinated to see the results in this poll: what are the main media sources? Fox News Channel is – 21 percent pick Fox News Channel more than any of the broadcast or other broadcaster cable outlets. That is a fascinating number.
Twenty-two percent pick radio. And interestingly, radio has gone up. It was only 12 percent in ’92; 19 percent in ’96; 15 percent in 2000. Twenty-two – what are we talking about with radio? Well, you could be talking about the one-and-a-half-minute hourly newscasts you get from ABC or CBS, but I suspect you’re talking primarily about talk radio here, and obviously that is a heavily conservative, anti-old media type of media.
And 21 percent on the Internet – again, a huge doubling since the last election cycle. Now, the Internet – the blogosphere contains all sorts of opinions, and you’ve got left blogs like the Daily Kos, as well as a lot of conservative blogs. The Internet played a major part in exposing errors and bias in old media here, and I think these numbers are proof that – or very strong evidence for the proposition that the media landscape has changed that old media is no longer the gatekeeper and the monopoly provider of information about politics and government, that there is a check on old media bias, distortion and untruth that these people are not aware of, and that the Democratic Party would be well advised not to depend on old media to carry its water anymore but rather they would be more wise to treat the media as warily as the Republicans do because it can come back to bite you.
MR. LUGO: Thank you, Michael.
MR. DIONNE: No, it’s not that I kicked the TV in on election night – I wasn’t watching Fox. (Laughter.) No, the one practical lesson for you – my wife had cooked some excellent chicken and instead I felt like having pasta, and I proceeded to drop a pot of boiling water and pasta on my foot. And my nine-year-old was very concerned about me but she said very helpfully afterward, “Dad, you should have had mommy’s chicken.” (Laughter.) And so the one practical bit of advice that you’ll get out of this encounter is always eat your spouse’s chicken and don’t try to make your own pasta.
It’s also very good to be here with Andy and Michael. Andy is a really innovative pollster, and I think that post-election experiment he did on moral values suggests why he is such an innovative pollster. He’s up on the news and yet he operates like a social scientist, and I want to get to that. I also want to salute Michael. He doesn’t only know the country state by state or city by city; he knows it street by street, block by block; sometimes I think house by house.
Now, Michael from Fox News did accuse the New York Times and CBS News of being professional hit men. He talked about bias, distortion, untruth. I’m happy to have a debate about that some day but this is not, I think, what we’re here to talk about, though I appreciated all of Michael’s comments.
I want to begin with a story – and some of you have heard me say this many times, but it is my favorite story on this whole question of religion and politics, and I think it’s revealing. It’s the old story of Mrs. O’Reilly being taken to the polls by her son. Her son is now upper-middle-class and votes for a lot of Republicans. It kind of annoys him that his dear mom still votes straight Democratic but he takes her to the polls anyway. He asks her, how are you going to vote? Sure enough she says, straight Democratic. And the son says, you know, Mom, if Jesus came back to Earth and ran as a Republican, you would vote against him. And Mrs. O’Reilly says, oh hush; why should he change his party after all these years? (Laugher.) And some of what is going on in politics right now is the perception on the part of some significant number of Americans that Jesus has changed his party affiliation after all these years, and I think that’s part of what’s on the table today.
The other thing I want to point out, is that you should be suspicious of all of us, myself included, in an election that’s 51-48. If the numbers had gone just a little bit the other way, almost everything – we would look at broadly the same outline and numbers and reach entirely different conclusions. A different party would be stuck in an enclave – a strategy to mobilize the base, which now looks brilliant, would have been condemned as being foolish, and so on. The best story on that is somebody was leaving John F. Kennedy’s staff, and Teddy White had described him in his “The Making of the President” 1960 book as “coruscatingly brilliant.” And as you recall, President Kennedy won the popular vote by about 115,000 votes in 1960. And Ben Bradley of the Washington Post was talking to Kennedy and saying, how are you going to do without this guy who is coruscatingly brilliant? And speaking of his entire political staff, Kennedy said, what these guys don’t understand is 100,000 votes the other way and they would all be coruscatingly stupid. And so I do think, on all post-election analysis in an election, 60-40 is easier to deal with than 51-48.
Now, I want to assert that it’s possible to believe two things at the same time and not be accused of being a flip-flopper. The two things I think that are true this election are, as Andy has shown in his work and as more sober analysis within days of the moral-values-decided-everything analysis and all the media suggested, is that moral values were part of this story but not the whole thing; indeed, that other issues were probably more decisive. Just take that exit poll finding itself, let along Andy’s wonderful experiment: 22 percent of Americans checked that “moral values” box, indicating that moral values were the most important issue in deciding their vote. But 71 percent of Americans checked “some other issue.” So 71 percent – 7 percent by the way, exercised their God-given and Constitutional right not to answer a pollster’s question.
So that means 71 percent decided on the basis of another issue, and as my colleague Charles Krauthammer pointed out – I disagreed with some of the analysis but I agreed with the point he was making – if you combine some of these issues, if you combine terrorism in Iraq or if you combine the economy and health care, you have blocks of foreign policy issues or blocks of economic issues that loom larger than this moral values issues. John Kerry, in brief, was not defeated by the religious right. Religious conservatives were a very important part of President Bush’s coalition in 2004. They were also a very important part of President Bush’s coalition in the election of 2000.
Just a few exit poll findings: 38 percent of those who thought abortion should be legal in most cases went for Bush. The president got 22 percent from voters who favored gay marriage, 52 percent among those who favored civil unions. A third of the voters who favored a government more active in solving problems favored President Bush. In other words, President Bush did two things at once: he organized very effectively to appeal to his conservative base but he held enough moderate voters to win the election. And I think that this electorate, as it turned out, had a potential coalition for Kerry in it, but as Andy suggested, due to the nature of the Bush campaign and voters’ judgments, Bush kept some critical number – 1.5 to 2 points – from crossing over to Kerry.
The notion of this is still a moderate country is underscored in those exit poll numbers that Andy showed to you. Forty-five percent of that electorate that voted on November 2nd considered itself moderate. There is a conservative advantage right now: 345 percent were conservative – and that’s an increase – 21 percent, God bless ’em, were liberals, so that for a candidate on the left or center left to win, they need a very large share of the moderate vote. John Kerry carried the moderates but he carried them only by nine points. Bill Clinton carried self-described moderates by a much larger margin.
What that tells me is a couple of things. One is, this is not a right-wing country. At the moment it’s basically a centrist country that in this election tilted slightly to the right, but that there is an alternative majority out there. And I think liberals have been, in some ways, excessively eager, for reasons that are in some ways beyond me, to say this was all about religious conservatives in the middle of the country voting a certain way. I guess there may be some moral satisfaction that some people get out of asserting that that’s the reason the election came out the way it did, although I don’t particularly share that either. It seems to me if you are not on the conservative side it is much more heartening that this election was decided in the middle and not at the extremes because that suggests that this is a country in flux and with a good deal of give in the electorate. People are open to arguments.
To underscore this, let me just talk about a couple of numbers from the exit polls. A great deal was made of President Bush’s organizing among churches in general but among church-going Catholics in particular. In the back of many Catholic parishes there was a leaflet not sponsored by the Catholic Church but by a conservative Catholic group that said there were only five issues that were non-negotiable for Catholics. They were stem cell research, euthanasia, gay marriage, abortion and cloning.
And indeed, President Bush did do well among Catholic weekly church attenders. He carried them by 56 to 43 percent. But what’s particularly striking is that among all other Catholics, John Kerry’s margin was 50 percent to 49 percent for Bush. I think something that’s worthy of study is whether the Bush margin among church attenders was the result of these issues or whether Catholics, as a fairly broad cross-section of Americans, were responding to many of the other issues in the campaign that other Americans were responding to.
Another piece of data that Luis actually called to my attention: Bush gained less ground among those who attended church weekly or more than weekly than he did among those who attended church at least once a month. Again, the game was in the middle, if you will, among religious moderates, or as Luis likes to call them, the monthlies, than it was among the weeklies. I think that’s an interesting piece of data that’s worth exploring. Again, it talks about a focus on the middle.
And then on these hot-button issues, the exit polls were very interesting. The beauty of good polling on issues like abortion and gay marriage is that good polling doesn’t offer a yes or a no option; good polling, I think, offers a broader set of options that allows pollsters to capture a broader range of opinions so that on the national exit poll, people were asked if abortion should be “always legal,” “mostly legal,” “mostly illegal,” or “always illegal.” One way to look at these numbers is that 55 percent of Americans were, on balance, on the pro-choice side, saying abortion should be “always” or “mostly legal,” but it’s also interesting that 60 percent of Americans chose one of the two middle options, either “mostly legal” or “mostly illegal.”
In some ways you can argue that the strong pro-choicers and the strong pro-lifers are the most philosophically consistent people in the electorate, but an awful lot of Americans, even on an issue as philosophically and personally difficult as abortion, or in search of some other ground, the same is true on the gay marriage question: 25 percent said that gays and lesbians should be allowed to legally marry, 35 percent favored civil unions, 37 percent favored no legal recognition of homosexual relationships. Again, you can percentage these numbers whichever way you want, and I’m sure interest groups will do exactly that. On the one hand, 60 percent of Americans favor either marriage for gays or civil unions, or, alternatively, 72 percent of Americans oppose gay marriage. Both statements are true from these exit polls. So it suggests, I think, a certain subtlety out there in the electorate and a country, again, involved in a very serious argument with itself.
There are several more points I want to make before I sit down. The first is John Green, our colleague at the University of Akron, did an excellent poll for the Pew Forum, and the Economist magazine, bless them, sort of bannered a lot of John’s findings across the top. And what’s interesting about what John did is that he not only looked at the various religious groups in the country – Catholics and mainline Protestants, and evangelical Protestants, and African American Protestants, and Jews and so on, but he also divided these groups in very interesting ways. He divided them in three groups whom he called traditionalists, centrists, and moderates. And what you found on the one hand were certain differences between the denominations, but what you often found is that traditionalists in any one of the groups were closer to traditionalists in another group than they were to modernists within their own congregations. And I think it’s very important to see the religious landscape, the political landscape, in religious terms, as being much more defined now by the divisions within the denominations than by the divisions among them.
This moral values question is fascinating, and I think Andy’s poll – as Andy pointed out, showed the number of people who said moral values when they were given the fixed list went up from the exit poll to the time he took his poll, and obviously some of it was the publicity given the moral values question. And I have also decided that many people are tempted to pick that choice because they do not want to say that they voted on the basis of immoral values. If there is anyone in this room who voted consciously on the basis of immoral values, please speak up because you will add a great deal to this conversation.
And here is where I think and hope that this conversation about moral values goes: On the one hand, I hope it doesn’t go to certain places. I’ve been arguing for a long time, as many of you know, that liberals should show more respect for people of faith, and so I’m happy that more Democrats are now saying that, but I think there is too much facile talk in this post-election period. Most of the voters who cast ballots for President Bush because of abortion or stem cell research or gay marriage are not going to suddenly switch sides because Democratic candidates pepper their speeches with prayers or say a few more God bless yous – though may God bless this entire audience. But they’re just not going to do it. These are serious people with serious commitments on these questions, and in many ways, the voters who do vote largely on the basis of those issues are, to the Republican Party, what African Americans are to the Democratic Party. They are a very solid part of the Republican base.
On the other hand, I do think that what is required is a sustained and intellectually serious effort by religious moderates and progressives to insist that social justice and inclusion are moral values and that war and peace are life issues. There is a fascinating piece I commend to you in the current issue of The New Republic by a young man called Andre Cherny, who was a speechwriter for the Kerry campaign until about April or May when he went off to the Democratic National Committee, and he tells a story about a speech, which I strongly suspect the speech he was proposing, that Kerry was going to give, linking family values – committing himself to family values and linking them to a larger agenda related to the difficulties that families face in a difficult economy, relating them to child care, after-school care, health care and the like, and to make a consistent moral case that one set of concerns is linked to another. I think this is something very much worth doing, even if this election wasn’t decided primarily on the basis of moral issues.
I’d just like to close with something I heard last week that struck me very much and that I found very instructive. I was up at a new center at Fordham University on religion and culture that my friends Peter and Peggy Steinfels have put together, and one of the people on the panel was former Senator Bob Kerrey – the other Kerrey – who is now president of the New School for Social Research in New York, and Fordham had kindly given us some Fordham paraphernalia, including these wonderful baseball hats. And Bob Kerrey looked at the baseball hat and noted that the baseball hat had been made in Vietnam, and then he pointed out that the textile agreement which has protected a modest number of textile jobs – most of them have gone overseas but some are still slightly protected – is about to expire and that it’s very likely that a lot of textile workers in the United States are going to lose more jobs in the coming months and years.
And Kerrey asked an interesting question. He asked about a young woman who worked in a textile mill that might have provided her with health insurance who lost her job. And he asked, if that woman got pregnant, under what circumstances would she be more likely to have an abortion and under what circumstances would she be less likely to have an abortion. If she had health care to take her child to term and if she had some prospect of providing a decent material life for that child, would she not be more likely to choose like? Would she not be more likely to choose to carry the baby? And if, on the other hand, she had no health insurance, no prospect for a job, no prospect for economic advancement, would she not be more likely in that circumstance to have an abortion?
I do say with all my heart, God bless Bob Kerrey for telling that story because I think if we are serious about moral values – and that’s we pro-lifers and pro-choicers, Republicans and Democrats – we have to consider not simply what our formal position is in an election campaign on an issue like abortion, but what circumstance are we going to create so that that young woman might be able to make a better choice and a choice that many people, right and left, pro-choice and pro-life, might regard as a choice consistent with moral values.
Thank you very much.
MR. LUGO: Notice how E.J. shifted from analyst to preacher there. You were just right down preaching on that one, E.J. Thank you very much.
We’re going to go to our Q&A unless any panelist wants to very quickly address any comment to any of the other panelists.
MR. KOHUT: E.J., I have a theory about why Kerry supporters and Democrats sort of flock to the moral values explanation. I think that it was easier and more comfortable to say Bush was elected because there’s this whole big block of people who think fundamentally differently than I do and chose – not only chose Bush, chose their values, and it was an unwillingness to accept that Bush really won among many people like themselves who just had a difference of opinion about the war in Iraq, a difference of opinion about the way Bush conducted his presidency. I think that made it easier for some Democrats to accept a Bush victory.
MR. BARONE: Well, and in some cases, but not all, they described them as ignorant, stupid, superstitious, bigoted – I mean, read the novelist Jane Smiley and some of the other novelists. You know, the Democratic National Convention had an honored place for Michael Moore who, on his website, says Americans are the stupidest people in the world. I’m puzzled at that but it was done.
MR. DIONNE: I think there’s a lot to what you say, Andy. Some of my very dearest friends still haven’t accepted that Bush actually won the election. (Laughter.) And they all call me because they know I never accepted that Bush won the last election, but even I have trouble overcoming a 3-million-vote margin this time.
So I do think there is some moral satisfaction that some people on the left take out of, if you will, blaming Bush’s victory on a group of people voting their moral values, because I must say, as somebody who was on the other side of this argument, I do find it distressing that moderates chose not to hold President Bush accountable for his mistakes. So I think that is easier, but I also worry about the other side of that, which is some attempt to display a kind of moral superiority in reverse – you know, a counter moral superiority to people in the middle of the country, which I think is illiberal for liberals. I don’t think that’s where liberals ought to be, and that a party that sort of helped build a great progressive movement on the basis of William Jennings Bryan’s great preaching, rooted in the gospel – his support for progressive values rooted in religious values – I think people need to take that tradition seriously and not write off people in the middle of the country.
MR. BARONE: And you always treat very respectfully the attitudes of these people in your writing and in your whole historical overview of it. They should listen to you.
MR. DIONNE: Bless you. (Laughter.)
MR. LUGO: All right, let’s not have this turn into a love fest up here. (Laughter.)
Now it’s your turn. If you could please identify yourself, and as we always do we want to give members of the press the first crack at the questions.
Q: Andy, a question for you.
Q: Did you do a breakdown in terms of not just Bush and Kerry votes as people who chose moral values, but amongst independents, Republicans, Democrats?
MR. KOHUT: A breakdown of –
Q: Of the people who – the 20-odd percent who said moral values was the most important. Was there a breakdown in terms of –
MR. KOHUT: Overwhelmingly Republican – overwhelmingly Republican, to the extent that – I mean –
Q: Sure, I know that, but what about amongst independents?
MR. KOHUT: Much less so. I would have to get the numbers for you. I don’t have that off the top of my head.
MR. DIONNE: Andy, just to follow up on that, isn’t one of the reasons this is an artifact is that, unless I’m wrong, the exit poll did not list abortion or stem cells or – there were a whole bunch of issues that it might have listed that it did not that ended up getting gobbled up by the category “moral values?”
MR. KOHUT: That’s right.
MR. BARONE: The only real cultural issue it mentioned was, quote, “moral values,” and the guy from ABC made a point – ABC’s research director said, gee, isn’t that rather vague; we shouldn’t include it, and he was outvoted on the committee. I think he had a point.
MR. DIONNE: Interesting.
MR. LUGO: Next question. Yes.
Q: Jo Freeman, National Writers Union. Traditionally, women were more likely to go to church than men, and we now see going to church as a predictor of Republican voting, and since 1980, women have been more likely to vote Democratic than men, though not all women. How do those two variables interact?
MR. DIONNE: I think that the Republicans have always done well among churchgoing women. The Republicans – when we talk about the women’s vote in block, in fact, the women’s vote is a lot of different votes, as every woman knows. You know, some of the Democratic advantage historically was because there were more senior women than senior men, and in the past, until the last 10 years, that was a New Deal generation and also a lot of women who were dependent on government help, particularly Social Security and Medicare, so that was one piece of it. But the part of the women’s vote that the Republicans were particularly good at getting were married women with children, married women in general, and churchgoing women.
That hasn’t changed in this election. I think the advantage went up a little bit, and what they seem to add to churchgoing women were not so much more secular but less religious women who seem to be voting on security and other issues. But the advantage – the Republicans stayed in the game among women precisely because there were groups of women who were more conservative, including churchgoing women.
MR. KOHUT: Yes, and in this election, the gender gap was not as strong as it had been in previous elections. In 2000 it was absolutely symmetrical. Gore polled as many women as Bush polled a margin among men. And just in comparative terms, Kerry did less well – somewhat less well than Gore did and much less well than Clinton did among women.
MR. BARONE: It’s interesting, if you go to European systems, and particularly countries like Italy, France, and to some extent Germany, where the major issue was the place of religion in society and the place of the state, who would run education, what you found is that when Italy and France extended the vote to women, they started voting more right wing – more for the parties of the right than they had previously when the vote had been men only because men were more for the secular state and women were more for the Catholic Church, which was the focus of the Christian democratic parties in Italy and Germany and of the various right parties in France.
MR. DIONNE: Yeah, the Communists would have won in Italy in 1948 if the franchise had not been extended to women. Just to show the gender gap – my favorite gender gap is between nuns and the hierarchy. Nuns within the Catholic Church are significantly more liberal. I have not seen elaborate polling but I have very strong feelings that that’s the case from my own experience. And I have to share with you a button that a group of nuns sent me about a week before the election. The button had the fires of hell on the back of it, and it said, “Catholic Democrat.” And in the middle of the button it said, “Damned if you do; damned if you don’t.” (Laughter.)
MR. LUGO: Very interesting.
Next question, please. Barbara.
Q: I’d like to ask a follow-up that has nothing to do with the first question. Is this just a statistical anomaly that Carl Rove said that he needed to get out 4 million more evangelicals this time around than he did in 2000? And in fact, there was something about a 4-million boost by President Bush.
MR. BARONE: Well, if you accept that the group we’re talking about is circa 22 percent of the electorate, then it’s about a 3 million increase. But, as Andy pointed out, it was not an increase in their proportion of the electorate, and maybe that’s what he really wanted to do but it turned out he didn’t need to do that to win by 3 million votes.
But clearly, I mean, the Bush campaign organizational effort targeted people via church connections but also through other networks of individuals, through other types of civic connectedness that people had. So it wasn’t all just religion or churches, or conservative religious movements.
MR. KOHUT: It was across the board, Barbara, I think.
MR. DIONNE: See, much as it pains me to say so, I think the genuinely innovative part of the Bush campaign was understanding how many votes were sitting out in the far suburbs or exurbs.
MR BARONE: And rural counties as well.
MR. DIONNE: Rural counties, but particularly in those exurban counties, which are not organized in the same way that cities or even older suburbs are organized. It really required new organizing. And I was talking to a Democratic friend the other day, and I said, go exurban, young man, go exurban – (laughter) – because I think there are a lot of Americans who live out in areas around here such as Gaithersburg or Prince William County near – the Washington Post printed a fascinating map, which showed not only the inner city of Washington but all the nearer suburbs like Alexandria, Arlington, Montgomery County, as being rather solidly Democratic, but the far suburbs, ringed — it was a sort of solid blue ringed with red. And that’s true all over the country.
And I think that is sort of, from either a political science point of view but also from a practical point of view, one of the most interesting thing about this election. It continues the trend, but I think the Republicans did an extraordinary job of boosting turnout in places where people are often unregistered.
MR. BARONE: Well, yeah. Let me put it his way: Sam Walton saw the potential for making profits in retail by going to rural and exurban counties where most retailers thought there was no money to be made. Karl Rove and Ken Melman saw the potential for going out to exurban and rural counties where people thought there were just not that many more votes to scratch up. And as I was doing election night for Fox – I’m sorry E.J. wasn’t watching – (laughter) – after the polls closed at 7:30 in Ohio and 8:00 p.m. Eastern in Florida, I started looking at counties in Ohio and Florida where 100 percent or nearly 100 percent of precincts had reported. And in county after county I saw the same thing and was able to put this on the air with specific counties and citing specific numbers. I saw an increase in voter turnout of 10, 20, or in fast-growing areas, 40 percent. I saw an increase in Bush percentage of 2, 4, 8 percent, and you add all those counties up and it turned out to be more in Florida and Ohio than any increase that the Democrats got in central city areas, which they got in Cleveland – did not get in the big Palm Beach and Broward County, Florida.
MR. DIONNE: It’s funny, I did exactly the same thing Michael did on some of these Florida counties, and then later that evening, when Bush was ahead in Ohio, I called an old friend whom I had met as a student – Notre Dame student who worked for Kerry. And I said, what’s happening in Ohio? And she said, we’re going to win because we’re meeting all of our targets in Cleveland and Franklin County. And I said to her, look, we’ve known each other a long time and there’s no need to spin anymore; do you honestly believe that? And she said, yes, I honestly believe that. It turned out she was telling the truth, they did hit all their targets, but you had these turnouts in these other counties that –
MR. BARONE: Probably Preble and Darke and Warren, you know, and so forth – Warren and Clermont, Butler, et cetera, going up so they – 40,000 increased majority for Kerry in Cuyahoga County, but that was swamped by the aggregate of these things in the other – in most of the other of the 88 counties.
Q: Oh, for the record, I’m Barbara Bradley Hagerty with National Public Radio. The follow-up question is, could you talk to me a little bit about the role of the ballot initiatives? I mean, one person that I talked to made that case that if you look at Ohio and Pennsylvania, in Ohio there was an initiative on the ballot. More Republicans came out – so Ohio went to Bush.
MR. DIONNE: The gay marriage initiative you’re talking about or –
MR. BARONE: Same-sex marriage.
Q: Gay marriage, right – same-sex marriage initiative. In Pennsylvania, there was no ballot initiative. This person was arguing that not as many people who feel strongly about that issue came to the polls and that accounted for some of the difference. I mean, can you just explain the role of these initiatives?
MR. BARONE: I haven’t seen the evidence that there was a huge leverage upward in turnout because of the same-sex marriage initiative in the general election. We did see that in the primaries. We saw it in the Missouri primary on August 3rd. Usually between 700,000 and 1.0 million people vote in Missouri primaries. In this August, it was 1.49 million. More voted on the same-sex marriage amendment, which was at the end of the ballot, than voted for the contested contest for governor.
So that looked like, gee, that issue really leverages turnout upward. But I think what was at play here was that turnout was being leveraged upward for the general election about as much as it could be. You had both parties making major organizational efforts of different character but different targets, but they were both doing that. And you had, you know, 75 percent of the American people saying, the outcome of this election is very important to me and my family. By way of contrast, even during the Florida controversy you had fewer than 50 percent of people saying that.
I mean, both parties – not just the politicians and the activists, but the voters were trying really hard to win this election, and is which is why I regard the 51-48 as pretty hard numbers because everybody was really trying on this one. We didn’t think it didn’t matter. And so I don’t think same-sex marriage probably brought that many more people to the polls, and I haven’t seen any evidence that it did.
MR. LUGO: But did it change any of the percentages? E.J. mentioned that among regular church-attending Catholics, the national levels of 13-point win for Bush in Ohio, as I recall correctly, was in the neighborhood of 30 percent among regular church-attending Catholics. So what drove that greater percentage, if not greater number, towards the Bush column?
MR. DIONNE: Thirty percent sounds high. Is that –
MR. LUGO: Of regular church attenders.
MR. DIONNE: Could I say, there is somebody who has the precise answer to your question here at Brookings – a guy called Michael McDonald – because what he did – and I wish I had his numbers in front of me, but Michael broke down turnout by swing states – you know, battleground states with gay marriage initiatives, battleground states without — and he pulled out I think Ohio and Florida, which got particular attention in these campaigns, and then non-swing states with and without gay marriage initiatives.
And as I recall, he found surprisingly limited effect on overall turnout. Being a battleground state mattered significantly more than whether you had a gay marriage initiative on the ballot. But if you call Michael here, he has the precise numbers. I think I’ve rendered them correctly.
MR. BARONE: Here’s some numbers here. Michigan turnout was up 14 percent over ’00; Ohio, 17 percent; Pennsylvania, 15 percent. Those are all states without substantial population growth. Those numbers look a lot the same to me. And if you’ve got one same-sex referendum – Ohio that’s higher than Pennsylvania, you’ve got another one, Michigan, that’s lower. So I don’t see the evidence here of a huge spike in turnout. The biggest spikes in turnouts were in Florida and New Mexico and Nevada, which are the fastest growing of the battleground states.
MR. DIONNE: But Michael has those numbers, and I believe I’ve characterized them right, but you should call him, too.
MR. KOHUT: I want to add one thing to the turnout story, and that is I think there’s some pretty clear evidence in the results of the Pew surveys and the Gallup surveys that there was a turnout trend. Very surprisingly, Gallup was showing some point in October that their likely voter base looked more Democratic than all registered voters.
MR.BARONE: That was the intra-debate period I think. I think that’s when it was.
MR. KOHUT: I can’t remember when it was. In fact, I think it was actually September. And I said to myself, I know this scale very well; this is what we do. I mean, I’ve brought all of the Gallup methodology to the Pew Research Center. I said, well, maybe they’re doing something different. And we found exactly the same thing in the debate period, that all of the sudden the likely voter base looked more Democratic. Kerry had a small advantage. And that doesn’t ever – it never happened in my experience. In fact, we wrote about it in our report saying, wow, it looks like the Democrats are really winning on turnout. But both Gallup and Pew found in that final week – by the time we got to that final weekend, that we saw once again the traditional Republican advantage on turnout. Something happened between early October or mid-October – I’ve got the dates confused in my mind – in that final weekend. I mean, the Republicans really pushed that work. It was a real change in terms of voting – in turnout intentions, not only in voting intentions.
MR. DIONNE: Must be those Diebold voting machines. (Laughter.)
MR. LUGO: Okay, next question please.
Q: My name is Doug Clark I’m the interim pastor at Immanuel Presbyterian Church in McLean. We’re right next door to the CIA if you want to visit us sometime.
MR. DIONNE: You getting more visits these days? (Laughter.)
Q: Just one quick comment. E.J., when you mentioned the five non-negotiable issues on the pamphlet in the back of Catholic churches, those are the same five non-negotiable issues in a letter that Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddleback Community Church, sent out to 136,000 fellow clergy of similar persuasions.
But I guess my question has to do with the energy of at least some folks from the Christian right in terms of their desire to impact policy in Washington. It kind of reached ahead over the controversy about Arlen Specter, and there was a group that held a prayer vigil outside Bill Frist’s office that said, you know, if you don’t get rid of Specter, we’re not going to vote for you when you run for president four years from now.
So to what extent to do you think the more loud voices from the Christian right will really have an impact, and on what basis can they make the claim that they won the election for Bush? I mean, you’re seeming to say that they cannot claim that they won the election for Bush, but what impact do you think they’re going to have?
MR. DIONNE: Well, they can claim to be a critical part of the Republican coalition. I mean, if white evangelical Protestants split 50-50 instead of the way they do, there would be a clear Democratic majority in an awful lot of states in the country. So they can’t claim that.
MR. BARONE: Back in the ’70s, they did split Democratic with Jimmy Carter.
MR. DIONNE: In Jimmy Carter’s race in particular, where all those Confederate red states were blue states, except for Virginia. So they have a claim, and also they do loom large in very important Republican primaries, notably South Carolina. So as a practical political matter, they have a claim on the Republican Party. The problem for Republicans is they are not a majority of the electorate; Bush could not have won with those votes alone. Arlen Specter would probably not have won in Pennsylvania had he been a very conservative Republican, although the test will be Rick Santorum two years from now.
MR. BARONE: Who has won twice.
MR. DIONNE: Won twice. But Specter’s sort of persona was on the other side. So they have a claim. The Republicans have a certain ambiguity about it. Where I thought you were going was where are moderate and progressive Christians, because there was so much energy on the side of the religious conservatives. And I think one useful outcome of this election is a kind of – not a crisis of conscience but a taking of conscience on the part of religious moderates and progressives. And I think you begin to hear those voices more strongly in the course of this campaign. I think this whole moral values discussion rooted in some fact, if not all the fact that some claim, will accelerate that.
MR. LUGO: And how is that going to play out within the Democratic Party, E.J., which has also a disproportionally large share of seculars? I mean, is that going to cause some internal tensions within the party as the sort progressive religious wing reasserts itself, if indeed it does?
MR. DIONNE: You know, the Democrats are so narrow-minded about abortion that they just election Harry Reid, who’s pro-life, as their Senate Democratic leader. In other words, I do think that there is – that’s a sarcastic comment. I mean, I just don’t want my drift missed. I do think there is an exaggeration – you know, I think in presidential politics it’s very difficult to be anti-abortion rights, pro-life Democrat. But I think within the congressional party you’ve always had a significant number of people who were either strongly pro-life or moderately pro-life.
MR.BARONE: They just couldn’t speak at the national convention.
MR. DIONNE: But they could be elected number two — the House whip, David Bonior – they could be elected the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid. You know, I think there will be a new discussion of abortion within the Democratic Party. I don’t think the party’s going to become a pro-life party on the whole, but I have begun to hear just since the election people sort of talking about abortion in a different way.
But, yes, there is a tension between, if you will, strongly secular people who are, you know, in some ways I think very legitimately scared of certain manifestations of religion in public life, and some of them — the more religious wing of the party — but a three-point defeat concentrates the mind on the effort to find the three points to go the other way.
MR. LUGO: And of course the Republicans may also have a similar – you know, if a Rudy Giuliani, or if we amend the Constitution, an Arnold Schwarzenegger, you know, contends for the nomination, they may have a similar –
MR. DIONNE: Well, the fight over Specter itself.
MR. LUGO: Right. That’s right. Andy.
MR. KOHUT: One little fact in this – not a little fact; I think it’s a considerably important fact. If you compare the differences between the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates’ quarters in this election and in the three previous elections, the differences on abortion and other religious measures in the exit polls are pretty much the same. If you compare them on all other issues, the gaps are wider on such things as is the country on the right track, the wrong track; how do you feel about the economy; how do you feel about any one of a number of issues, which points to, I think, a finding that we talked about one year forward the election: that the gaps between Republicans and Democrats were bigger in this election on a whole range of issues — and in fact, on the social issues the gaps, while they were large, were no greater, but the disparities between Republicans and Democrats this time were much greater on – let’s call it the non-moral issues.
MR. DIONNE: Twenty-five percent of people who think abortion should always be legal voted for Bush. Twenty-two percent of people who thought abortion should always be illegal voted for Kerry. Now, that shows on the one hand a split, but on the other hand some crossing over on that issue. And the people in the middle were even less divided.
MR. LUGO: All right, very good. We’re going to try to squeeze in a couple more questions. Yes.
Q: Two questions. I’m Jean Stokin with Pax Christi. Could you go back to the question on the Hispanic shift and did religion have anything to do with that, and any other commentary on the Catholic vote versus a Catholic candidate?
MR. LUGO: Thank you. I gather that Hispanic number is under some scrutiny at this point.
MR. KOHUT: I don’t have smart answer on that one. I do think, though, that the Hispanic vote has to be further questioned. I mean, I think the entire exit poll dataset has to be looked at once, twice, three, or four more times until we’re completely comfortable with it. And I think there even may be some definitional issues with respect to Hispanics.
MR. BARONE: Well, definition would be self-defining of course, as it is with the census for that matter, because it’s not clear. You know, can Georgetown University cover a Spanish crown prince who was a student there as part of their Hispanic quota and say they’re helping the underprivileged. (Laughter.)
Both the National Election poll and The L.A. Times poll showed Bush with 44-45 percent of Hispanics. A writer named Steve Sailer, who writes for one of Pat Buchanan’s publications and other sort of immigration websites claims it’s considerably lower and cites some geographic data. There is reason, I think, to believe that Hispanics who live in identifiably 99 percent Hispanic neighborhoods probably vote different from Hispanics who live in 30 percent or 40 percent Hispanic neighbors. I mean, I’ve been out on the ground enough in L.A. County – San Bernardino County – to have a feel that suggests that that’s right.
Religion and Hispanics – really just a guess – I think they qualify as probably more likely to be religious and attenders. Not only Catholic, but evangelical Protestants are numerous among them. And I suspect that if there was indeed what the exit poll says – a significant increase for Bush – that probably played some positive role. Now, I don’t agree with some of my conservative friends who imagine that Hispanics are like the 1950s Irish incense-and-Latin-mass Catholics. It’s a different church, a different feel, but I think that probably played a role.
MR. DIONNE: The one clear thing from the exit polls is that Hispanic Protestants were much more strongly for Bush – they actually voted for Bush – compared with Hispanic Catholics. So that’s one thing that’s out there. Second thing is so much of this depends upon sampling points. Texas Hispanics actually voted for Bush. They’ve had a campaign for Bush starting in 1994. California and New York Hispanics were much less for Bush and turnout in those two non-battleground states was generally lower than it was in some other areas.
If you look state-by-state in Colorado, there appeared to be very little change in the Hispanic vote, whereas so far in New Mexico – although they’re still counting votes there – there did seem to be some advantage to Bush. So I do think we’re going to be sorting out this vote some time.
MR. BARONE: The numbers you cite suggest an hypothesis, which is that Hispanics vote like other people in the state – Democratic in California and New York, Republican in Florida and Texas.
MR. DIONNE: Except Colorado-
MR. BARONE: Colorado seems not to be the case and New Mexico. Were you an historic Hispanic community it’s not the case.
MR. LUGO: All I would say on that count is that this issue is intimately related to the whole debate on immigration, which is, you know, just below the surface. The people who track it know it’s very much there. A lot of the groups – I’m not saying the numbers are wrong, but one just has to treat them with care. You know, this is part of an internal debate within the Republican Party as between the Bush wing and another wing of that party, and clearly if those numbers hold up, they significantly strengthen politically the Bush wing because one of the major arguments from the more restrictionist side of that debate – many of these folks conservative – was that Bush was dreaming if he thought he could really make inroads in the Hispanic vote- why bring in more people who are just going to vote more Democratic? Obviously this really changes, I think, the internal dynamics politically within the Republican Party.
One last question. Nathan, yes.
Q: For Mr. Kohut. I’m still a little unclear on how –
MR. DIONNE: Nathan Diament, Orthodox Union.
Q: Thank you. I’m still unclear on how you’re experimenting with the moral values question and re-asking the question in different ways. In the Jewish community, we saw a values vote, so to speak, in that the segments of the community that most intensely identified with Israel in the war on terrorism went for Bush and the secular community, by and large, was more concerned about abortion and gay rights and so on and went for Kerry, in a traditional Jewish-Democratic way.
So that leads me to wonder – you could ask the question about Iraq as a moral values question. You could ask the question about the economy as a moral values question, and it was still the case that even in your re-asking of it, open-ended or closed-ended, it was being set off as a category separate and apart from Iraq, economics and so on and so forth. So how do you explain – or re-explain that without trying to explicitly ask, are you looking at Iraq, are you looking at health care as a values question?
MR. KOHUT: Well, that’s one of the reasons why we did the follow up where we asked people who chose moral values to say, well, what do you mean by that? And what they meant by it was either issues – it mentions they were either thinking about specific issues such as abortion or gay marriage or other issues related to homosexuality or stem cell or they were thinking about the religious beliefs of the presidential candidates. There were no mentions of Iraq, there we no mentions of terrorism, and there were no mentions of things other than this set of things, and even this set of things was pretty broad. If you look in the report you’ll see a detailing of what they said they had in their minds when they checked that category, so to speak.
MR. LUGO: It’s a good hypothesis though, Nathan, that if you were a religious progressive who was driven by an anti-war moral concern, you probably would not have picked off the moral values question; you had Iraq there on which to register your vote. Or similarly, if it was a social justice religious progressive, you have jobs and the economy there which could pick off your vote.
So it is an interesting question, you know, how it is that the moral values category really over-represents, perhaps, religious conservatives, and the religious progressives sort of split their votes among the other categories. It’s a very interesting proposition.
MR. DIONNE: I just wanted to build very briefly on your last point. In election analysis, different, odd bedfellows get created. Luis mentioned immigration. Anti-immigration Republicans and many Democrats have a common interest in saying there wasn’t a big gain among Hispanic voters for entirely different reasons. Similarly, some liberals and some evangelical activists have an interest in saying that the values role was very important, though for very different reasons. So beware all analysts who have a single explanation for any election.
MR. LUGO: On that note, it’s a great way to end. Thank you so much, panelists, and thank you for coming.