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Sunday, November 7, 2004
Continuing to Explode the Gay Marriage Myth

By Steven Taylor @ 2:07 pm

Writes Paul Freedman in Slate: The Gay Marriage Myth - Terrorism, not values, drove Bush’s re-election

Based on preliminary turnout estimates, 59.5 percent of the eligible voting population turned out in marriage-ban states, whereas 59.1 percent turned out elsewhere. This is a microscopic gap when compared to other factors. For example, turnout in battleground states was more than 7.5 points higher than it was in less-competitive states, and it increased much more over 2000 as well.

I would note: one expects that the more competitive the race, the greater the turnout is likely to be. Hence, the increased turnout in battleground states was expected.

Further:

It’s true that states with bans on the ballot voted for Bush at higher rates than other states. His vote share averaged 7 points higher in gay-marriage-banning states than in other states (57.9 vs. 50.9). But four years ago, when same-sex marriage was but a twinkle in the eye of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Bush’s vote share was 7.3 points higher in these same states than in other states. In other words, by a statistically insignificant margin, putting gay marriage on the ballot actually reduced the degree to which Bush’s vote share in the affected states exceeded his vote share elsewhere.

And, as usual, comparative statistics and historical perspective are helpful:

More to the point, the morality gap didn’t decide the election. Voters who cited moral issues as most important did give their votes overwhelmingly to Bush (80 percent to 18 percent), and states where voters saw moral issues as important were more likely to be red ones. But these differences were no greater in 2004 than in 2000. If you’re trying to explain why the president’s vote share in 2004 is bigger than his vote share in 2000, values don’t help.

Shockingly, the answer to the puzzle of 2004 was security:

If the morality gap doesn’t explain Bush’s re-election, what does? A good part of the answer lies in the terrorism gap. Nationally, 49 percent of voters said they trusted Bush but not Kerry to handle terrorism; only 31 percent trusted Kerry but not Bush. This 18-point gap is particularly significant in that terrorism is strongly tied to vote choice: 99 percent of those who trusted only Kerry on the issue voted for him, and 97 percent of those who trusted only Bush voted for him. Terrorism was cited by 19 percent of voters as the most important issue, and these citizens gave their votes to the president by an even larger margin than morality voters: 86 percent for Bush, 14 percent for Kerry.

These differences hold up at the state level even when each state’s past Bush vote is taken into account. When you control for that variable, a 10-point increase in the percentage of voters citing terrorism as the most important problem translates into a 3-point Bush gain. A 10-point increase in morality voters, on the other hand, has no effect. Nor does putting an anti-gay-marriage measure on the ballot. So, if you want to understand why Bush was re-elected, stop obsessing about the morality gap and start looking at the terrorism gap.

Quite frankly, the Democratic response, that Bush won because of bigoted Red Staters, is simply a way to say “it isn’t us! it isn’t our fault!”

However, as I have already said since Wednesday-the Democrats are going to have to start looking more critically at their own failings, or they will continue to lose ground. They engage in self-delusion after 2002 and are doing so again.

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1 Comment»

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  1. Even more evidence the exit polling on “moral values” is ambiguous: moral values was #1 in exit polling in 1996 and 2000 by even higher percentages than the 22% in 2004 (40% and 35%, respectively). http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/351/13/1314/T1
    (ran across the link on MedPundit).

    Comment by Sam — Sunday, November 7, 2004 @ 8:32 pm

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