Uh oh. Big media got this wrong and keeps getting it wrong. A national Harris poll of 2,335 adults conducted Dec. 4 - 12 shows that when voters talk about "moral values," they generally do not mean gays, gay rights or much of the rest of the agenda of the religious right. In fact, the supposedly "huge" issue of same-sex marriage was named as a moral value by only 3 percent of those surveyed.
Instead, in mentioning moral values voters are talking about whether an individual politician is, ah, moral, and has such values as honesty, integrity and trustworthiness. Harris notes (the emphasis is mine):
Of all the people who say moral values are very important in deciding how to vote, less than a third (30%) are referring to the candidates’ positions on issues, with by far the largest number (14%) referring to abortion. In addition, they mention gay rights (3%), that marriage is between a man and woman (3%) and gay marriage (3%). A few, but only a very few, mention homosexuality (1%), and stem cell research (1%).Hat tip to Marriage Equality News.
...As part of this poll those surveyed were asked which of a list of 12 issues are most important to them in deciding how to vote. Overall, among all adults, the two so-called "moral values" issues in the list, abortion and gay rights are by far the least important. Health care, Social Security, economic issues, taxes, the war in Iraq, the war on terror, immigration, education and the environment are all important to many more voters.
...These findings show that pollsters, journalists and commentators must be very careful not to assume that voters who feel strongly about "moral values" are primarily concerned with issues such as abortion, homosexuality, gay marriage, stem cell research, gun control or any of the other issues often associated with the Christian Right or the Conservative base of the Republican party.