Gary Langer, director of polling for ABC News, adds his voice to the whole values-vote debate in an NYT op-ed piece.
poorly devised exit poll question and a dose of spin are threatening to undermine our understanding of the 2004 presidential election.
The news media has made much of the finding that a fifth of voters picked “moral values” as the most important issue in deciding their vote – as many as cited terrorism or the economy. The conclusion: moral values are ascendant as a political issue.
The reporting accurately represents the exit poll data, but not reality. While morals and values are critical in informing political judgments, they represent personal characteristics far more than a discrete political issue. Conflating the two distorts the story of Tuesday's election.
This distortion comes from a question in the exit poll, co-sponsored by the national television networks and The Associated Press, that asked voters what was the most important issue in their decision: taxes, education, Iraq, terrorism, economy/jobs, moral values or health care. Six of these are concrete, specific issues. The seventh, moral values, is not, and its presence on the list produced a misleading result.