The Values Campaign? The Christian Right and the 2004 Elections

By John C. Green; Mark J. Rozell et al. | Go to book overview

home state advantage, and lack of voter enthusiasm for Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry. In this chapter, we describe and explain the role of moral issues in the 2004 campaign, with particular emphasis on the impact of the religious right. We also review the evidence about whether the 2004 election outcome was a “values vote.”


The 2004 Election: A “Moral Values” Campaign?

Some observers, such as New York Times columnist David Brooks, said that 2004 would be a “values” election, and data from the Zogby poll seemed to confirm that assessment. Brooks said that “Americans want to be able to see their leaders' faith.” When voters were asked to name their most important voting criterion, 54 percent said having a president who shares their values, 29 percent said having a president who can best provide for their safety, and only 13 percent said having a president who will improve their personal finances. In the summer of 2004, Brooks wrote that John Kerry's deep flaw was that only 7 percent of Americans (in a Time magazine poll) had identified the Democratic nominee as “a man of strong religious faith.” Brooks regarded faith as so key to voting decisions that Kerry was doomed to lose if he could not change this perception of him as a secular candidate (Brooks 2004). Indeed, polling data showed that the regular churchgoing population was heavily Republican, and the less religiously observant population was strongly Democratic.

Furthermore, during the 2004 campaign many observers suggested that the country had become unusually divided and that supporters of Bush and Kerry shared little in common. There is some evidence to support the divided electorate thesis. A Zogby International poll found that whereas two-thirds of Kerry supporters had watched the controversial film Fahrenheit 911, only 3 percent of Bush supporters had done so. Half of Bush's supporters said they had seen the film The Passion of the Christ, whereas only 15 percent of Kerry supporters had done so. With regard to the statement, “We were better off in the old days when everyone just knew how they were expected to behave,” 61 percent of Bush supporters agreed, but only 18 percent of Kerry supporters agreed; 75 percent of Bush supporters said that a president should emphasize his religious values, and 96 percent of Kerry supports said that religion is a private matter that does not belong in public discourse (Zogby International).

Political divisions also were evident as a result of the growing identification of evangelical Protestants with the Republican Party—a trend that began with the Reagan administration but became even more pronounced during President George W Bush's first term. A 2004 Pew survey found that

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