Poll Shows Voter Moral Compass Shifting To Dems genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation & Uncivil Unions

Bridging the gap

Logic should tell us that no one group has a lock on morality...but don't look at the last decade to discern that conclusion. Nonetheless, the GOP stranglehold on values voters seems to be on the wane as evidenced by Frank Newport's analysis at the Gallup News Service which reviewed recent polling trends. I'm reminded of the well know adage of, "It is true that you may fool all of the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all of the time; but you can't fool all of the people all of the time". If this new Gallup analysis is accurate, then this insightful quote from Abe Lincoln may well be the undoing of the Republican Party's efforts to rewrite the equation. Perhaps an exaggeration on my part but one intended to emphasize the GOP's years of successfully pushing the envelope.

PRINCETON, NJ -- An analysis of USA Today/Gallup poll trend data indicates that while Democrats have made gains across the board on the generic Congressional ballot in the latest Oct. 6-8 survey, the change has been greater among religious whites than among less religious whites and among non whites. At this point, religious whites are equally as likely to say they will vote Democratic as Republican, a marked change from their strong tilt towards the Republicans in surveys conducted June through September.

The Democrats made gains across all groups in the October poll compared to the averages in previous months. But the Democratic gain (or Republican loss depending on how one looks at it) is more significant among religious whites than among the other two groups. Religious whites went from an average Democratic disadvantage of 23 points across the June through September months, to dead even in October. Less religious whites shifted only seven points across these two time periods, while the group of "all others" shifted 9 points.

A comparison of the September average to October shows a 22-point gain for the Democrats among white frequent churchgoers, a six-point gain among white less frequent churchgoers, and a 14-point gain among all others.

The fact that the largest percentage shift towards the Democrats seems to come from the most religiously defined group harkens another well known adage, "Fool me once shame on you; fool me twice shame on me". As a good friend once told me, the best way to change someone's mind or their behavior is to put them in a situation where retaining their opinions or their actions might make them appear to be stupid. Before anyone is offended, I am not suggesting anyone is stupid...but I am arguing that many values voters were manipulated by a Republican Party that has mastered the art of lip service.

One plausible explanation for the broad drop in Republican support in the most recent poll is the Mark Foley scandal in Congress. Since this situation involved issues of morality on the part of Foley, and allegations of a cover-up on the part of Republican leadership, it appears plausible that religious whites may have become disproportionately disillusioned with the Republicans and as a result lost more of their fervor for voting Republican than others in the population.

I realize that values voters on the far right and those secular voters on the far left are unlikely to narrow their divide in order to reach many points of agreement...but that is why they call it a bell curve. Fortunately the vast majority of people fall somewhere in the middle because they are reasonable and thoughtful and they understand that our social contract can only succeed if we demonstrate a healthy measure of tolerance for opposing views. In return, the same social contract provides each of us the opportunity to equitably hold the views we choose so long as they conform to law. That's an amazingly practical and efficient construct based upon an appreciation of human nature.

At the same time, it acknowledges that the notion of values is much broader than two or three volatile issues like abortion rights or same-sex marriage. Finding oneself in agreement with another on two critical issues doesn't necessarily mean that both parties share the same values. Even the very cornerstone of many American voters’ beliefs, the Bible, offers numerous examples to support that observation. I don't know if we're on the verge of enlightenment or if someone has found a new way to fool more of us...but I do know that all that is required to maintain a rational balance is a willingness to take the time to learn enough about others such that an accurate and honest evaluation can prevail when confronted by the all too frequent rhetoric of partisan political absolutism. I think a wise man from our distant past had it about right when he coined another famous adage, "Moderation is the key".

Daniel DiRito | October 12, 2006 | 1:59 PM
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