Traditional Values and Voters (Cont'd)

Article excerpt

Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Voters who emphasize traditional values achieved resounding victories in the 2000, 2002 and 2004 elections. Their candidate, George W. Bush, captured the White House in 2000 and retained it four years later. Meanwhile, Republican congressional candidates, who have routinely received a disproportionately large share of support from traditional-values voters, achieved majority control in both chambers of Congress after all three elections. Values voters, however, suffered a serious setback in 2006, as their preferred political party lost control of both the Senate and the House.

These developments proffer serious questions: What does the future hold for traditional-values voters, their leadership and the issues dear to them, including abortion, the institution of marriage, bioethics, religious freedom, judicial activism, the education of their children and continuously evolving social and cultural mores? How will the political arena in 2008 and beyond be shaped as values voters revise their strategies and regroup? In a fascinating three-part series, "The Way Back for Values Voters" (May 14-16), Cheryl Wetzstein, who has been reporting on family and social values for The Washington Times since 1994, explored these questions in depth. Her series can be read at www.washingtontimes.com/national.

Before the 2006 setbacks, the political power exercised by values voters was impressive to behold. When President Bush won re-election in 2004 with a victory margin of less than 2.5 percent, he did so by increasing his 2000 popular-vote total by an astounding 11.6 million (23 percent) votes. In 2004 John Kerry received 8 million (16 percent) more votes than Al Gore captured in 2000, and Mr. Kerry still lost to Mr. Bush by more than three million votes. When the dust settled, the consensus view was that Mr. Bush rode to re-election victory by dramatically increasing his base of voters who focused on traditional values.

While the exit polls phrase their questions differently from one election to the next, the 2004 surge in traditional-values voters can be easily detected. In 2000, "white religious right" voters comprised 14 percent of the electorate and gave 80 percent of their vote to Mr. Bush. In 2004, "white evangelical/born-again" voters made up 23 percent of the electorate, and President Bush won 78 percent of their votes. That made the difference. Indeed, among the 77 percent of voters who did not identify themselves as "white evangelical/born-again," Mr. …