[W]hen [voters] were asked an open-ended question about the top issue, Iraq and the economy moved past moral values. Iraq was picked by 27 percent, the economy by 14 percent and moral values tied with terrorism at 9 percent.
Presumably, there's suggestive power to mentioning "moral values" to people. They want to look like they care about morality once it's brought up, but before that, they may not have been thinking about it. The new poll also probes what people mean when they say "moral values":
Just over four in 10 of those who picked ``moral values'' from the list mentioned social issues like gay marriage and abortion, but others talked about qualities like religion, helping the poor, and candidates' honesty and strength of leadership.
"We did not see any indication that social conservative issues like abortion, gay rights and stem cell research were anywhere near as important as the economy and Iraq,'' said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center. "'Moral values' is a phrase that's very attractive to people.''