Study: Election created new 'values voter'
Rejecting 'culture wars,' most people of faith signal desire for politics that build bridges.
Americans painted a new picture of the "values voter" in the recent election.Skip to next paragraph
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They rejected the "culture wars," with its narrow agendas and liberal-conservative divisiveness, in favor of politics that build bridges on a range of contentious issues. The readiness to work together is revealed in a national poll on voters' priorities and values taken on Nov. 5-7 in the immediate aftermath of the election.
Nearly three-quarters of voters (and of religious voters) said people of faith should promote the common good, not protect their own views. Even groups most active in the religious right said a broader faith agenda would best reflect their values.
Only 1 in 5 white Evangelicals and 1 in 8 Catholics said an agenda focused on abortion and same-sex marriage best expressed their values. A majority of both Evangelicals (55 percent) and Catholics (51 percent) opted for a broad agenda that also includes poverty, the environment, and the war in Iraq. The survey involved a nationally representative sample of 1,277 voters and had a margin of error of 3 percent.
"Our poll shows that Catholics and white Evangelicals reject the idea that focusing on one or two issues is the right way to engage in public life," says Katie Paris, of Faith in Public Life, which sponsored the survey conducted by Public Religion Research in Washington.
Also, President-elect Barack Obama apparently made inroads into that faith community beyond those who backed him. Many white Evangelicals - nearly twice the number who actually voted for him - now say he is "friendly to religion" and "shares their values."
Although much has been made of the boost Sarah Palin's candidacy gave to Sen. John McCain among Evangelicals, the survey shows that her nomination was a net loss for the GOP ticket. Only 30 percent of white Evangelicals said her nomination made them more likely to support McCain, while it decreased support among every other religious group and among independents.
In regard to domestic issues, 48 percent of voters picked the economy (no surprise) as the single most important issue in the election, with 12 percent choosing Iraq and 8 percent, healthcare. In naming their top two issues, voters chose the same three: economy (70 percent), Iraq (35 percent), and healthcare (31 percent.) When asked who they thought was most responsible for the current economic crisis, voters pointed largely to the failure of major institutions. Some 38 percent said the primary responsibility rests with corporations that made bad business decisions. About 31 percent said the government neglected its regulatory responsibilities, and 25 percent blamed individuals who were careless and borrowed more than they could afford.