David Brooks of the NYT took a look at the exit-polling numbers and came up with some different conclusions that your typical pundit. But there’s some big holes in his argument too: For example, he doesn’t account for the ignorance and gullibility of Bush supporters.
Here are the facts, Brooks wrote. As Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center points out, there was no disproportionate surge in the evangelical vote this year. Evangelicals made up the same share of the electorate this year as they did in 2000. There was no increase in the percentage of voters who are pro-life. Sixteen percent of voters said abortions should be illegal in all circumstances. There was no increase in the percentage of voters who say they pray daily.
It’s true that Bush did get a few more evangelicals to vote Republican, but Kohut, whose final poll nailed the election result dead-on, reminds us that public opinion on gay issues over all has been moving leftward over the years. Majorities oppose gay marriage, but in the exit polls Tuesday, 25 percent of the voters supported gay marriage and 35 percent of voters supported civil unions. There is a big middle on gay rights issues, as there is on most social issues.
Much of the misinterpretation of this election derives from a poorly worded question in the exit polls. When asked about the issue that most influenced their vote, voters were given the option of saying “moral values.” But that phrase can mean anything – or nothing. Who doesn’t vote on moral values? If you ask an inept question, you get a misleading result.
The reality is that this was a broad victory for the president. Bush did better this year than he did in 2000 in 45 out of the 50 states. He did better in New York, Connecticut and, amazingly, Massachusetts. That’s hardly the Bible Belt. Bush, on the other hand, did not gain significantly in the 11 states with gay marriage referendums.
I thought I should disagree with this statement:
He won because 53 percent of voters approved of his performance as president. Fifty-eight percent of them trust Bush to fight terrorism. They had roughly equal confidence in Bush and Kerry to handle the economy. Most approved of the decision to go to war in Iraq. Most see it as part of the war on terror.
But then I checked one website (pollingreport.com), which tallied job approval ratings from the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, and found Dubya’s approval rating was at 51 per cent. When you allow for margin of error, it was possibly as high as 53 per cent and had tracked upwards in the campaign’s dying days.
However, now I’m scratching my head as to why it would rise. The missing explosives in Iraq story, Halliburton’s bid-free contracts were being investigated by the FBI – all those were percolating in the final days.
This was an Oct. 29 CTV.ca story on this subject:
George W. Bush spoke with confidence about his re-election, despite being dogged on the campaign trail by missing weapons in Iraq, and White House ties to the giant Halliburton company.
Bush told USA Today the race, in his opinion, boils down to “a matter of trust” and that he believes he will win because he has “shown the American people I can do the job in tough times.”
Bush gave the interview Thursday while flying on Air Force One, saying he feels “very at peace with this campaign.”
On Friday, he was campaigning in New Hampshire and then Ohio. In Manchester, N.H., he said the U.S. invasion of Iraq was the right thing to do and that he is best able to keep America safe.”
Still, the president has not been able to silence the questions about the disappearance of hundreds of tons of explosives from an Iraqi military facility around the time of the U.S.-led invasion last year. …
Bush needs no lessons from Ronald Reagan in Teflon-coating one’s self.
Oh, and another thing: OBL popped up out of a cave and made a statement to Americans.
Here’s a quote from a CNN story:
For Andrea Levin, 39, of Seattle, who voted for Al Gore in 2000, it was the return of Osama bin Laden, who released a videotape taunting Bush four days before Election Day, that made the difference. “When he made his presentation, looking all spiffed up, and condemned the President’s foreign policy, I saw that as a clear sign that I should vote for Bush.”
Here’s a snippet from a Washington Post story:
Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto is showing no remorse for an on-air crack about Osama bin Laden wearing a Kerry button that infuriated John Kerry’s campaign.
Cavuto told viewers last week that his “thin-skinned” and “humorless critics seem to have selective memory.” Recalling all the Democrats he’s had on his show, Cavuto dismissed “threats from Democrats who now say they will boycott my show. I say, go ahead. Boycott me. Fair and balanced, I’ll continue to invite you, and I’ll let my viewers know when you decline — each and every time you do.”
And finally, an NYT story:
Mr. Kerry’s aides said his efforts to turn the election to the economy were drowned out by news from Iraq as well as Mr. Bush’s focus on cultural issues. The slide worsened as the final days of the campaign were dominated by two overseas topics, Osama bin Laden’s videotaped message that was released on the weekend before the election and the missing explosives in Iraq.
“News events were driving this, including the Osama bin Laden tape, at the end,” said Robert Shrum, a senior adviser to Mr. Kerry. “The economy was not driving the news coverage.”
The cluelessness factor
The other factor is that Bush supporters seemed to be curiously misinformed on several key foreign issues.
The Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland studies American attitudes on foreign policy issues.
On Oct. 21, they released a poll entitled The Separate Realities of Bush and Kerry Supporters (.pdf file). Talk about faith vs. reality-based.
- A substantial majority of Bush supporters believe Iraq had WMDs and that this was substantiated by the Duelfer Report. That would be wrong
- A large majority of Bush supporters believe Iraq was supplying substantial support to al Qaeda and that post-war findings have borne this out. Oops, wrong again!
Here’s a quote from the report:
So why are Bush supporters clinging so tightly to these beliefs in the face of repeated disconfirmations? Apparently one key reason is that they continue to hear the Bush administration confirming these beliefs.
Among Bush supporters, an overwhelming 82% perceive the Bush administration as saying that Iraq had WMD (63%) or a major WMD program (19%). Only 16% of Bush supporters perceive the administration as saying that Iraq had some limited activities, but not an active program (15%), or had nothing (1%).
The pattern on al Qaeda is similar. Seventy-five percent of Bush supporters think the Bush administration is currently saying Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda (56%) or even that it was directly involved in 9/11 (19%). Furthermore, 55% of Bush supporters say it is their impression the Bush administration is currently saying the US has found clear evidence Saddam Hussein was working closely with al Qaeda (not saying clear evidence found: 37%).
Attention, aspiring politicians: REPEAT THE BIG LIE! IT WORKS!! NEVER RETRACT!!!
Man, Ralph Klein should get such a free ride from Albertans.
Brooks ended his column with this:
What we are seeing is a diverse but stable Republican coalition gradually eclipsing a diverse and stable Democratic coalition. Social issues are important, but they don’t come close to telling the whole story. Some of the liberal reaction reminds me of a phrase I came across recently: The rage of the drowning man.
More the rage of the frustrated sane man when all around him seem to be mad. Or of the frustrated smart man when all around him appear to be stupid.
On certain key foreign issues, Bush supporters put their faith in their man. He lied to them. But because of careful image management, they see themselves in him and so they believe him despite what the facts say.
That type of coalition is a house of cards, I say.
And unfortunately, it will take things getting worse before some people start thinking a bit more clearly.