At his US News & World Report God & Country blog, Dan Gilgoff addresses some criticism from the folks at Faith in Public Life, insisting that voters really do know what the term “moral values” denotes. Faith in Public life previously had criticized Gilgoff, E. J. Dionne, other “prominent pundits,” and the recent Pew poll that sparked the debate for breathing new life into the term, which FPL believes “assumes that certain (unnamed but clearly implied) issues are not just shaped by values, but are values and all others are amoral.” Gilgoff sees Pew’s 2004 exit polls as proof that the term has more to it than euphemistic vagueness:
Whenever I hear this argument—that voters think of “moral values” as a whole lot more than hot-button issues and that it encompasses progressive causes like economic justice and access to healthcare—I point to this follow-up survey to the 2004 exit polls conducted by Pew.
Rather than debunk the salience of moral values in the ’04 election, the Pew poll confirmed it. From a fixed list of options, more voters selected “moral values” in Pew’s poll than any other single issue, including Iraq or economy/jobs.
And as opposed to finding that the term “moral values” is largely meaningless, the 2004 Pew poll showed that people had clear notions of what the term meant.