Religious Right's Issues Fade from Public Interest

Key "hot button" issues, such as abortion and homosexuality, concerned few adults, according to a survey of the conservative Barna Research Organization.

"The issues often associated with moral decay were not significant to adults," reported a Mar. 26 Barna report.

George Barna, company founder, said, "Five particular issues—homosexuality, abortion, cloning, child abuse and pornography—were each listed by less than one-half of one percent of the public as being among the most serious national issues."

"The fact is that such 'hot button' issues are hot for a relatively chosen few," he said. "Most Americans either yawn or cringe at the mention of those issues."

"There was no single aspect or description of moral decline that dominated people's minds," reported. "There were six dimensions of moral demise identified by equivalent proportions of people: substance abuse, crime, violence, spiritual decay, loss of family values, and a general discomfort regarding the moral climate."

The report said that born-again Christians see moral decline as a serious problem more than non-born again individuals (25 percent versus 15 percent).

The moral decline of the nation was listed as the top national issue by only 19 percent of Americans, well-behind the war on terrorism (52 percent) and economic issues (30 percent).

The survey was conducted in late January and early February 2002 with a national random sampling of 1,006 adults.

What may one conclude from Barna's survey?

One obvious conclusion is that the public prioritizes big picture issues such as terrorism and economics.

Another conclusion might be that the public has become deaf to the religious rights' dire warnings that the nation's cultural sky is falling. Since the sky has not fallen, after 25 years of fundamentalist preaching about a new dark age tied to a few hot button issues, the public has simply turned off these Cassandras of crisis, who have clearly lost their influence.

A third conclusion may be that Americans are concerned about the nation's moral climate but with a more inclusive change to the agenda. And perhaps Americans have a maturing understanding that entrenched social issues are complex, allowing for no quick fixes.

Robert Parham is BCE's executive director.

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