Moral Values, reduced

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Back to the Moral Values debate. A recent Pew survey shows that between November 2004 and now Moral Values has slipped from 27 percent to 10 percent as the issue that “would matter most in your presidential vote.” Lo and behold, the economy has gone from 21 percent to 50 percent. Is this surprising? Hardly.

So what’s the debate? Well, Gilgoff and Dionne are taking the decline in Moral Values as culturally and politically significant, while over at Bold Faith Type, Beth Dahlman rehearses the liberal critique of 2004 as the “Moral Values Election”–i.e. Moral Values was a bad category, and the fact that a plurality of voters selected it created a lot of sound and fury but signified nothing.

But actually, Moral Values did mean something. What it pointed to was the evangelical vote, as John Green and I showed here. Way disproportionately, evangelical voters selected Moral Values as their most important issues, with the result that Bush won those regions of the country where Moral Values came in first, and lost those regions where it didn’t. The lesson of this Pew Survey, then, is this: Since 2004, evangelicals have moved away from choosing Moral Values as their most important issue. Politicians would be wise to take note, especially Republican ones.