- The Washington Times - Friday, November 12, 2004

They were giddy, they were melancholy. They laughed, they cried. Voters on both sides took the presidential election personally, according to the first major polls of a post-election United States.

Though the Pew Research Center and Harvard University can’t determine if Democrats are poised to leave the country, secede from the union or be treated for an attack of vapors, the pollsters reveal an emotional electorate with limited tolerance for celebrities bent on swaying politics.

But optimism over President Bush’s election already is afoot.

The Pew Center poll finds that while emotions between the parties are polarized, many are looking to the future. Among all voters — Republicans and Democrats alike —, 61 percent say they expect Mr. Bush to have a “successful second term as president.”

Liberal Democrats still are ready for a fight, though. Sixty percent want their party leaders “to stand up to the GOP.” And those liberals who voted for Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry seem ready for a therapy session: 96 percent say they are disappointed, 86 percent are worried, 53 percent are angry and 47 percent are depressed.

All of the Kerry voters — moderates, conservatives and liberals — remain glum, with 88 percent disappointed and 75 percent worried, nearly 35 percent angry and 29 percent depressed.

Meanwhile, conservatives who voted for President Bush remain upbeat: 93 percent say they are both relieved and reassured, 91 percent feel safer and 72 percent are excited. Things seem equally rosy for all Bush voters. Ninety percent are relieved and reassured, 88 percent feel safer, 64 percent are excited.

The Pew survey was conducted among 1,209 voters Nov. 5 to 8 and released yesterday.

It also finds that moral values weighed on voters’ minds, underscoring news media exit polls that indicated that 22 percent of voters cited values as the most important and influential issue of the election.

The Pew poll states 27 percent of the respondents also cite the importance of moral values. Among Bush voters, 44 percent cite them; the figure stands at 7 percent among Kerry voters.

Among those who list values as the most important influence, 44 percent say they hinged upon social policies like homosexual “marriage” and abortion. But another 23 percent say “candidate qualities” are a strong influence — including honesty, integrity, church attendance, “traditional values” and a sense of “right and wrong.”

A separate poll by Harvard University’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy also says voters have a personal stake in the election process.

Earnest Hollywood pleas fell on mostly deaf ears: only 7 percent of first-time voters and 2 percent of repeat voters say they became interested in the election because “so many celebrities were encouraging people to vote.”

But emotions surfaced. Among first-time voters, 64 percent say they went to the polls “because I really disliked one of the candidates.” Almost half of repeat voters agreed.

The poll of 1,010 adults was conducted Nov. 3 to 7 and was also released yesterday.

Voters are tuned in to ideas: 92 percent of first-timers and 86 percent of repeat voters cite “issues” as a primary motivator in getting them to the polls. First-timers and repeat voters strongly feel it is a citizen’s duty to vote, 78 percent and 96 percent, respectively.

The poll also plumbs the psyche of non-voters. One third of non-voters say the primary reason they didn’t vote is because they weren’t registered. Another 30 percent say they didn’t like any of the candidates and a quarter say they were “too busy” to go to the polls.

One in five say they had no way to get to the polls on Election Day, 18 percent say they were “disgusted” with politics, 14 percent say the issues were too complicated, 11 percent say they weren’t American citizens and 10 percent say they have “no interest in politics.”

Six percent say polling-place lines were too long, 6 percent have had trouble registering to vote, and 5 percent don’t want to get called for jury duty by registering. Just 3 percent fear their right to vote would be challenged.

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