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Who Are the Values Voters?

An analysis of results from the Washington Post/Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard University Moral Values Survey By Robert J. Blendon, a professor at Harvard's School of Public Health and John F. Kennedy School of Government; and John Benson, deputy director of the Harvard Opinion Research Program at the School of Public Health.

1. The moral-values issue has become important politically because an overwhelming majority (88%) of those who vote based on that issue are dissatisfied with moral values in this country, and most (74%) see government policies are being part of the problem. A majority (62%) of moral-values voters see religion as being part of the cure.
(Table 1)

2. Moral-values voters (17% of registered voters) are disproportionately Republican (53%), conservative (61%), born-again (54%), and highly religious (64% say that religion is either the most important thing in their lives or extremely important).
(Table 2)

3. Moral-values voters differ on a large number of issues from registered voters who do not vote based primarily on moral values. The issues that most set moral-values voters apart from other registered voters tend to involve elements of religious belief and threats to the traditional family. The four issues where moral-values voters differ most (in each case, by more than 20 percentage points) are school vouchers, the circumstances under which abortion should be legal, expanding women's access to early abortion options like RU-486, and physician-assisted suicide.
(Table 3)

4. Majorities of moral-values voters identify four issues that they both think of as moral issues and also say would be among the most important in deciding their vote: the example a president sets by his personal behavior (75%); abortion (58%); the break-up of the family (57%); and sex and violence in the media (53%).

None of these four issues are considered by a majority of non-moral values voters to be important moral issues in deciding their vote. Expanding health insurance coverage to all Americans (56%) is the top moral issue for non-moral values voters.

Campaign finance reform is not considered a top moral voting issue by either moral-values or non-moral values voters in this election. In addition, concerns about income inequality, the fairness of the current tax system, and the death penalty are not seen by a majority of either voting group as important moral issues in their election choices.
(Table 4)

5. Looking at presidential trial heat results among all registered voters masks important differences. Gore and Bush are virtually tied among all registered voters. However, among those who say that moral values will be one of two most important issues in the presidential vote, Bush leads by more than 50 percentage points. Among registered voters who do not say moral values is one of the top two issues, Gore leads by 15 points.

The same pattern holds true when registered voters are asked which candidate and which party would be better at improving the nation's moral values. The two candidates and the two parties are basically tied among all registered voters, while Bush and the Republicans have a huge lead among moral-values voters; Gore and the Democrats have a substantial lead among non-moral values voters.

Similarly, moral-values voters give Bush and the Republicans a very large lead as the candidate or party more sympathetic to religion and religious people. Gore and the Democrats lead on this measure among non-moral values voters.
(Table 5)

6. Gore moral-values voters and Bush moral-values voters have quite different attitudes on a number of issues. The largest gaps (all more than 20 percentage points) are on: hate crimes legislation for gays and lesbians, the circumstances under which abortion should be legal, school vouchers, the death penalty, and expanding women's access to early abortion options like RU-486. On two of these issues--hate crimes legislation for gays and lesbians, and access to early abortion options such as RU-486--a majority of Bush moral-values voters take a position not held by a majority of Gore moral-values voters.

Majorities of both Gore and Bush moral-values voters agree that the federal government should be involved in promoting moral values and regulating sex and violence in the media. (Table 6)

7. Majorities of Bush moral-values voters identify four issues that they both think of as moral issues and also say would be among the most important in deciding their vote: the example a president sets by his personal behavior (84%); abortion (61%); the break-up of the family (60%); and sex and violence in the media (54%).

None of these four issues are considered by a majority of Gore moral-values voters to be important moral issues in deciding their vote. Expanding health insurance coverage to all Americans (64%) is the top moral issue for Gore moral-values voters.

About half (49%) of Gore moral-values voters say that the example a president sets by his behavior is an important moral issue in deciding their vote. Once again, campaign finance is not considered an important moral voting issue by either Gore or Bush moral-values voters.
(Table 7)

	Table 1
	Why Moral Values?
	Moral-values voters vs. other registered voters
                                     Total        Moral-        Not
                                      reg.        values       moral
                                     voters       voters       values
Dissatisfied with moral values
  in this country (Q6b)               68%          88%          64%
Government policies have
  weakened Americans' moral
  values (Q31)                        48%          74%          43%
In order to improve values
  and morality in this
  country, we must put more
  emphasis on religion (Q48)          45%          62%          42%
Source:  Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard, September 2000
 	Table 2
	Key Demographics of Moral-Values Voters
                                   %s read down               % of each
                                                              group who      
                          Total       Moral-       Not        are moral-
                           reg.       values      moral        values
                          voters      voters      values       voters
TOTAL REG. VOTERS                                                17%
By unleaned party:
  Rep                      30%         53%         26%           30%
  Dem                      38%         18%         42%            8%
  Ind                      23%         20%         23%           15%
By leaned party:
  Rep                      41%         67%         35%           29%
  Dem                      47%         21%         52%            8%
By ideology:
  Lib                      19%          9%         21%            8%
  Mod                      46%         29%         49%           11%
  Cons                     33%         61%         27%           32%
By born-again:
  Born-again               36%         54%         33%           26%
By importance of
  religion in your
  own life:
    Most/extremely
      important            44%         64%         40%           25%
    Very important         25%         20%         27%           13%
    Somewhat/not too
      important            30%         17%         33%           10%
By gender:
  Men                      48%         47%         48%           17%
  Women                    52%         53%         52%           17%
By age:
  18-29                    15%         14%         15%           17%
  30-49                    44%         47%         43%           19%
  50-64                    22%         21%         23%           17%
  65+                      19%         18%         20%           16%
By region:
  Northeast                19%         17%         20%           15%
  North Central            23%         26%         22%           20%
  South                    38%         39%         37%           18%
  West                     20%         18%         21%           15%
Source:  Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard, September 2000
 
	Table 3
	Attitudes on Policy Issues
	Moral-values voters vs. other registered voters
                                     Total        Moral-        Not
                                      reg.        values       moral
                                     voters       voters       values
Statistically significant differences,
  rank-ordered by percentage point
  difference
Favor school vouchers (Q19)            49%          69%          45%
Abortion should not be legal
  or should be legal only in
  cases of rape, incest, or
  to save mother's life (Q21)          57%          77%          54%
Oppose expanding women's access
  to early abortion options
  like RU-486 (Q23)                    43%          62%          39%
Oppose physician-assisted
  suicide (Q17)                        45%          62%          41%
Oppose federal law imposing
  additional penalties on
  people who commit crimes
  out of prejudice toward
  gays and lesbians (Q25)              40%          55%          37%
Federal government should
  be involved in promoting
  moral values (Q12)                   59%          72%          56%
Federal government should
  regulate sex and violence
  in media (Q14)                       46%          59%          43%
Allow prayer in public
  schools (Q20)                        73%          84%          71%
Cut off welfare after 5 years
  if willing to work but can't
  find job (Q15)                       57%          64%          56%
Base hiring, promotion, and 
  admissions strictly on merit
  and qualifications other than
  race (Q16)                           86%          92%          85%
Favor death penalty for
  murder (Q18)                         66%          71%          65%
Not significant difference
Limit money people can give
  to candidates (Q13)                  61%          58%          62%
Source:  Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard, September 2000
	Table 4
	What Issues Registered Voters Consider as Moral Issues
	and Which Would Be One of the Most Important
	Issues in the Vote
	Moral-values voters vs. other registered voters
                                     Total        Moral-        Not
                                      reg.        values       moral
                                     voters       voters       values
Expanding health care coverage
  to all Americans                   53% (1)      34% (5)      56% (1)
The example a president sets
  by his personal behavior           46% (2)      75% (1)      41% (3)
Protecting the environment           42% (3)      25% (8t)     45% (2)
Abortion                             37% (4)      58% (2)      33% (6t)
Sex and violence in the media        36% (5)      53% (4)      33% (6t)
Gun control                          35% (6t)     25% (8t)     37% (4)
Inequality between whites
  and minorities                     35% (6t)     32% (6)      36% (5)
Break-up of the family               33% (8)      57% (3)      28% (9t)
Taxes and the tax system             32% (9)      27% (7)      33% (6t)
Differences in income                26% (10)     14% (12)     28% (9t)
Death penalty                        23% (11)     20% (10)     24% (11t)
Campaign finance reform              22% (12)     16% (11)     24% (11t)
Source:  Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard, September 2000
 	Table 5
	The Presidential Campaign
	Moral-values voters vs. other registered voters
                                     Total        Moral-        Not
                                      reg.        values       moral
                                     voters       voters       values
Presidential vote (unleaned)
  Gore                                43%          16%          49%
  Bush                                40%          68%          34%
  Nader                                3%           2%           3%
  Buchanan                             1%           2%           1%
Presidential vote (leaned)
  Gore                                47%          19%          53%
  Bush                                43%          72%          37%
  Nader                                3%           2%           4%
  Buchanan                             1%           2%           1%
Candidate better at improving
  the nation's moral values:
    Gore                              42%          17%          47%
    Bush                              43%          71%          37%
Ticket better at improving
  the nation's moral values:
    Gore/Lieberman                    49%          23%          54%
    Bush/Cheney                       39%          68%          34%
Party better at improving
  the nation's moral values:
    Democrats                         38%          17%          43%
    Republicans                       39%          66%          34%
Candidate more sympathetic
  to religion and religious
  people:
    Gore                              43%          20%          48%
    Bush                              36%          63%          31%
Party more sympathetic
  to religion and religious
  people:
    Democrats                         41%          18%          46%
    Republicans                       36%          62%          31%
 
Source:  Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard, September 2000
 
	Table 6
	Attitudes on Policy Issues
	Gore and Bush moral-values voters
                                                  Gore         Bush
                                     Total        moral-       moral-
                                      reg.        values       values
                                     voters       voters       voters
Statistically significant differences,
  rank-ordered by percentage point
  difference
Oppose federal law imposing
  additional penalties on
  people who commit crimes
  out of prejudice toward
  gays and lesbians (Q25)              40%          31%          62%
Abortion should not be legal
  or should be legal only in
  cases of rape, incest, or
  to save mother's life (Q21)          57%          56%          83%
Favor school vouchers (Q19)            49%          52%          74%
Favor death penalty for
  murder (Q18)                         66%          55%          77%
Oppose expanding women's access
  to early abortion options
  like RU-486 (Q23)                    43%          46%          67%
Base hiring, promotion, and 
  admissions strictly on merit
  and qualifications other than
  race (Q16)                           86%          76%          96%
Oppose physician-assisted
  suicide (Q17)                        45%          52%          66%
Cut off welfare after 5 years
  if willing to work but can't
  find job (Q15)                       57%          54%          68%
Allow prayer in public
  schools (Q20)                        73%          76%          86%
-cont.-
 	Table 6 (cont.)
	Attitudes on Policy Issues
	Gore and Bush moral-values voters
                                                  Gore         Bush
                                     Total        moral-       moral-
                                      reg.        values       values
                                     voters       voters       voters
Not significant difference
Federal government should
  be involved in promoting
  moral values (Q12)                   59%          75%          72%
Federal government should
  regulate sex and violence
  in media (Q14)                       46%          59%          60%
Limit money people can give
  to candidates (Q13)                  61%          58%          58%
Source:  Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard, September 2000
 	Table 7
	What Issues Registered Voters Consider as Moral Issues
	and Which Would Be One of the Most Important
	Issues in the Vote
	Gore and Bush moral-values voters
                                                  Gore         Bush
                                     Total        moral-       moral-
                                      reg.        values       values
                                     voters       voters       voters
Expanding health care coverage
  to all Americans                   53% (1)      64% (1)      26% (5t)
The example a president sets
  by his personal behavior           46% (2)      49% (2)      84% (1)
Protecting the environment           42% (3)      47% (4t)     18% (10)
Abortion                             37% (4)      47% (4t)     61% (2)
Sex and violence in the media        36% (5)      48% (3)      54% (4)
Gun control                          35% (6t)     45% (8)      20% (8)
Inequality between whites
  and minorities                     35% (6t)     47% (4t)     26% (5t)
Break-up of the family               33% (8)      47% (4t)     60% (3)
Taxes and the tax system             32% (9)      31% (9)      26% (5t)
Differences in income                26% (10)     27% (10)     10% (12)
Death penalty                        23% (11)     21% (11t)    19% (9)
Campaign finance reform              22% (12)     21% (11t)    12% (11)
Source:  Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard, September 2000
        

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