The Family Research Council is holding a press conference now at the National Press Club announcing a “Value Voters Summit” for September. They’re also presenting the results of a March 9-12 poll, focusing on value voters, conducted by bipartisan firm Riehle-Tarrance.
We had an early look at the numbers this morning, which we can now relate. There’s a flood of data here, so we’ll pull out what strikes us as most important. The sample seems evenly distributed among Republicans and Democrats (31 to 28 percent), and among Republicans and Democrats including “leaners” (36 to 40 percent). Eighty-five percent of respondents were registered voters.
Forty-one percent described themselves as born again or evangelical Christians, versus 52 percent who said they were not. By party, this breaks down into 53 percent of Republicans and 34 percent of Democrats self-identifying as evangelicals. Fifty-six percent of conservatives and 20 percent of liberals report being evangelical.
By the issues:
-A Constitutional ban on same-sex marriage is slightly favored by registered voters: 47 to 41 percent. Evangelicals favor it 69 to 22 percent.
-An overwhelming majority supports increased FCC fines for indecency 60 to 31 percent.
-The pollsters asked the abortion question differently: Would you “generally favor or oppose law designed to protect the unborn and to help foster ‘a culture of life?” Registered voters favor such laws 58 to 28 percent.
The composite question is the kicker: after asking about these three specific issues, as well as a ban on tax dollars to Planned Parenthood or the ACLU, making permanent the child tax credit and relief from the marriage penalty, and a ban on legalized gambling expansion, “Thinking about the issues I’ve just read, would you say the Republican majority in Congress has done enough or NOT done enough to keep its promises to voters to act on these proposals.” Not surprisingly, registered voters largely said Congress has not done enough — 61 percent versus 22 percent.
But what do those numbers mean? Is that widespread Democratic dissatisfaction with Republicans? Since registered voters polled reject the gambling expansion ban by a five-point margin, does this mean those voters are upset by talk of a gambling ban? These are diverse issues, and to label those who agree with the Family Research Council on all six “values voters” may be foolhardy. Pro-life libertarian-leaning conservatives may support abortion restrictions, but not larger FCC fines and the gambling expansion ban.
FRC may not be off its rocker though. The next question quells some of the doubt about this strategy: “Would you be more likely, or less likely to support a candidate who would vote in Congress in favor of the laws we just discussed?” Sixty percent of registered voters would be more likely, and 22 percent less likely. Among evangelicals, that jumps to 75 versus 11 percent. This are huge margins in the evangelical-rich red states.
Bottom line: Even in the areas that President Bush and Republicans have performed pretty well (and there aren’t many), their base is mostly dissatisfied. Republicans will ignore the social conservatives at their own peril. Of course, the Republicans’ loss is not necessarily the Democrats’ gain — they’re even worse on these issues. Republicans need to give social conservatives a reason to vote for them. Otherwise, it comes down to domestic economic policy/entitlements and foreign policy. Those aren’t great odds.