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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, April 26, 2005

 
Reading The Tea Leaves

Citing Yglesias for the second time (how does he do it?) I have to wholeheartedly agree with him on this one. This report by the PPI on why we should take on popular culture seems to follow all the blog talk in which it's just assumed that this is an issue that will move votes. I've seen absolutely no actual data to indicate that people will vote Democratic if we join the moralizing bandwagon.

I do however, see evidence in the polls that says people don't like this incursion into people's personal lives by the Republican party --- which would suggest that adopting this "morals-lite" agenda may just backfire.

Here's some data from the Washington Post poll (pdf):

Do you think a political leader should or should not rely on his or her religious beliefs in making policy decisions?

Should:40%
Should Not:55%
Depends:4%
No Opinion:2%

Would you rather see religion have GREATER influence in politics and public life than it does now, LESS influence, or about the SAME influence as it does now?


Greater:27%
Less:35%
Same:36%
No opinion:1%


23; Do you think that people and groups that hold values similar to yours are gaiing influence in American life in general these days, or do you thinks that they are losing influence?


4/24/05:
Gaining:35%
Losing:58%
Neither:6%
No opin:2%

8/16/98:
Gaining:35%
Losing:55%
Neither:6%
No opin:4%


24. Which political party, the Democrats or the Republicans, do you think better represents you own personal values?


4/24/05:
Dems:47%
Reps:38%
Neither:10%
No Opin:2%

3/14/99:
Dems:47%
Reps:39%
Neither:8%
No Opin:3%

25. Generally speaking, which political party, the Democrats or the Republicans, do you think is more:

4/24/05
a. tolerant of different
kinds of people and
different points of view:

Dems:63%
Reps:24%
Both:4%
neither:5%
No opin:4%

b. sympathetic to religion
and religious people

Dems:34%
Reps:48%
Both:6%
neither:6%
No opin:7%

9/17/00
a. tolerant of different
kinds of people and
different points of view:

Dems:62%
Reps:22%
Both:4%
neither:4%
No opin:8%

b. sympathetic to religion
and religious people

Dems:41%
Reps:36%
Both:6%
neither:5%
No opin:11%


27. Do you think religious conservatives have too much influence, too little influence or about the right amount of influence over the Republican Party?

4/24/05
Too Much:40%
Too Little:17%
About the right amount:37%
No Opin:6%

Do you think liberals have too much influence, too little influence or about the right amount of influence ovewr the Democratic Party?

4/24/05
Too Much:35%
Too Little:21%
About the right amount:38%
No Opin:5%


Now, none if this proves anything with respect to whether the Democrats should attack popular culture as a way of connecting with voters on the allegedly all important values issues. Clearly, this doesn't address that specifically. But it does address the fact that people seem to be more concerned at this point that politicians are too influenced by religion than that they are not influenced enough. And that tells me that we would be going in exactly the wrong direction if we think to capture a majority by twisting ourselves into pretzels on morals and values. The proponents certainly haven't produced any data that would say otherwise.

It is true that the Republicans are perceived as more sympathetic to religion nowadays than they were back in 2000, but why wouldn't they be? They are drenched in religious rhetoric and seem to be wholly at the mercy of the religious right. (You'll note that at least some of their gain on the issue stems from many fewer people saying they have no opinion on the matter. It didn't used to be understood that politics and religion were so intertwined.)

And in that respect, it doesn't appear to be a net positive that they are now perceived as more sympathetic to religion, particularly considering the first question I highlighted, which is "do you think a politician should or should not rely on his or her religious beliefs in making policy decisions?" A clear majority say no. And 71% of people say that religion should have the same or less influence as it has today.(Significantly, more people think it should have less influence than think it should have more.) It does not appear to me that people are clamoring for more religious moralizing from politicians.

Indeed, the most interesting result in all of this is that more people say that Democrats represent their personal values than Republicans, and that number hasn't changed since 1999. So if more people have identified with Democrats on personal values since 1999, the genesis of the Bush Frist Travelling Salvation Show, it seems pretty clear to me that values aren't the reason we are losing. In fact, if they keep it up, it's looking as if the Republicans will be the ones to lose on that issue in 2006.

I think that the question that pollsters have to ask is if people think it is more important for the government to be tolerant of different kinds of people and different points of view or if they think it's more important for government to be sympathetic toward religion. In that choice lies the answer to how we should proceed.



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