On NBC's Meet the Press, host Tim Russert, during an interview with Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-DE), asked Biden if same-sex marriage was one of the issues “that the Republicans used successfully to demonstrate that the Democrats were out of sync on cultural -- and values.” But leading up to the 2004 election, polls found that the public was split equally on which party better represented their values, and more recent polling indicates that more people think Democrats better represent their values than do Republicans.
On the June 4 broadcast of NBC's Meet the Press, host Tim Russert, during an interview with Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-DE), asked Biden if same-sex marriage was one of the issues “that the Republicans used successfully to demonstrate that the Democrats were out of sync on cultural -- and values.” Russert's question was prompted by President Bush's recent statements in favor of a federal constitutional amendment barring gay marriage and the fact that the Senate is taking up the amendment this week. However, although few national public polls asked specifically about the issue of “values” in the months leading up to the 2004 election, polls that did so found that the public was split equally on which party better represented their values. More recent polling indicates that more people think Democrats better represent their values than do Republicans.
A June 20-23, 2004, George Washington University Battleground Poll poll conducted by Lake Snell Perry and Associates, a Democratic polling firm, and the Tarrance Group, a Republican firm, found that 49 percent of respondents thought Democrats “would do a better job” of "[s]haring your values," while 46 percent though Republicans would. A July 11-15, 2004, CBS News/New York Times poll found that 46 percent thought Republicans came “closer to sharing your moral values,” while 45 percent thought Democrats came closer. A September 3-5, 2004, CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll found that 49 percent thought the Democratic Party “better represents your values,” while 45 percent thought Republicans did. Each poll had a +/- 3 percent margin of error.
Following the 2004 election, a CNN exit poll showed that 22 percent of voters chose “moral values” as the most important issue to them, and that 80 percent of those voters voted for Bush, leading the media to widely hype the so-called “values voters” as the key to Bush's re-election. However, as Media Matters for America noted at the time, “moral values” and “values voters” were, at best, ill-defined and problematic terms. A November 6, 2004, New York Times article quoted Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, stating that exit polls were “misleading” because “moral values ... was an ambiguous, appealing and catchall phrase.” “If you put moral values on a list,” Kohut noted on the November 3 edition of PBS' The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, “it's hard for many people to say they weren't thinking of moral values when they were making their decision.” Times columnist David Brooks agreed, writing in his November 6, 2004, column: “Who doesn't vote on moral values? If you ask an inept question, you get a misleading result.”
More recent polling indicates that the nebulous issue of “values” may favor Democrats. A May 4-8 CBS News/New York Times poll asked: “Do you think the Republican party or the Democratic party comes closer to sharing your moral values?” 50 percent of respondents replied the Democrats come closer -- a five percent increase from March -- compared to 37 percent who replied that Republicans come closer. An April 8-11 Los Angeles Times poll asked: “Which party, the Democrats or the Republicans, comes closer to representing the values that you, yourself, hold important?” According to the poll, 44 percent answered “Democrats,” while 38 percent answered “Republicans.” Both polls had a +/- 3 percent margin of error.
From the June 4 broadcast of Meet the Press:
RUSSERT: The president used his radio address yesterday, and tomorrow in the Rose Garden, to talk about a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
BIDEN: You know, think about this. The world's going to Hades in a handbasket. We are desperately concerned about the circumstance relating to avian flu -- we don't have enough vaccines, we don't have enough police officers -- and we're going to debate, the next three weeks, I'm told, gay marriage, a flag amendment, and God only knows what else. I can't believe the American people can't see through this. We already have a law, the Defense of Marriage Act. We've all voted -- not, where I've voted, and others have said, look, marriage is between a man and a woman and states must respect that. Nobody's violated that law, there's been no challenge to that law. Why do we need a constitutional amendment? Marriage is between a man and a woman. What's the game going on here? And now we're going to also vote, right after that, about desecration of the flag. If you can't --
RUSSERT: But aren't these issues ones that the Republicans used successfully to demonstrate that the Democrats were out of sync on cultural -- and values, in that, in that degree?
BIDEN: I don't know if they've used it successfully. A fascinating thing [Hurricane] Katrina did -- Katrina not only blew away the Gulf, it blew away the illusion that these guys were competently able to deal with the real problems that Americans face. And I think this just highlights the fact they have no intention, they have no plan, to deal with health care. They have no plan to deal with our national security. They have no plan to deal with the energy crisis.
They have no -- I mean, gasoline's going up an incredible amount. I've got a bill, along with others, saying, look, make every single automobile company -- by the year 2008 or -9, depending on which one you pick, have flex-fuel automobiles. Make every gas station in America have to have a flex-fuel pump. That would fundamentally begin to alter importation.
But no one wants to offend anybody. We don't want to offend the oil companies. We don't want to offend the auto workers. We don't want to offend anybody. And what are we going to do? Because we don't want to make any hard decisions, let's go talk about gay marriage. I think it's ridiculous.