CULTURE WARS vs. REAL WARS….Matt Yglesias is right: this article by Paul Freedman in Slate is important. Basically, he says the whole “moral issues” debate is so much hot air:
Voters who cited moral issues as most important did give their votes overwhelmingly to Bush….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.
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.
….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.
My quickie reaction to this is that I think Freedman makes some good points, although I suspect cultural issues are more important than he’s giving them credit for. After all, even if they haven’t become any more important than they were in 2000, they’re still important ? and Democrats need to figure out a way to reduce their impact.
Still, my instinct all along has been that terrorism is the key swing issue for centrist voters right now, and that closing the gap on national security issues is more important for Democrats than closing the gap on cultural issues. Freedman is definitely onto something.