Counting a New Breed of Conservative The term "Pro-Government Conservatives" is a new grouping in the Pew Research Center's typology of voters. The group tends to live south of the Mason Dixon line, religion is important to them, and many of the women work. Family and finances are big concerns for them.
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Counting a New Breed of Conservative

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Counting a New Breed of Conservative

Counting a New Breed of Conservative

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

And in this segment of the show, we're going to go behind the polls and take a look at what's known as political typologies. The Pew Research Center sorts people into nine groups based on their values, beliefs and party affiliations. The center's director, Andrew Kohut, is a frequent guest on this program. We're going to reporting on Kohut's groups, beginning today with pro-government conservatives. That's a new category, but the people that fall into it are probably similar to the Reagan Democrats of 20 years ago. NPR's Linda Wertheimer went looking for them.


We know from polling data that most of this group lives south of the Mason-Dixon Line. We know that religion is very important to them. So we went to Nashville, and we went to church.

(Soundbite of congregation singing)

Unidentified Group: (Singing) When the ...(unintelligible) bread is broken, and the cup is passed and shared...

WERTHEIMER: That's choir practice at Christ's Lutheran Church in the Tusculum neighborhood on Nashville's south side. Since more than 60 percent of the pro-government conservatives are women, we interviewed the sopranos and the altos during a break.

(Soundbite of people talking)

WERTHEIMER: Many of these women work, most of them voted for President Bush, they have families, financial concerns and, of course, opinions. Iraq is the issue for an important personal reason for Thora Knowlson(ph), who is the church secretary.

Ms. THORA KNOWLSON (Church Secretary): My oldest son is serving in Iraq, and I don't see George Bush having an exit plan from that. And it worries me that he's been there a year, and I don't know when he's coming home.

WERTHEIMER: Asked for a show of hands, the women at choir practice indicated strong support for the war in Iraq, but they also had concerns. Andrea Regg(ph) is a data superintendent with the Nashville public schools.

Ms. ANDREA REGG (Data Superintendent): I totally support it, but I think the issues are a little bit blurred, and I often wonder if that country didn't have oil if we would even be interested in Saddam Hussein. Once again, you know, it's a different culture, you know, just like Vietnam. It's like are we totally misunderstanding what the Iraqi people want?

WERTHEIMER: These women were reluctant to criticize President Bush. I asked Debbie Calthorne(ph), a hairdresser who owns her own shop, how she thinks the economy is doing.

Ms. DEBBIE CALTHORNE (Hairdresser): That's a tough one. It's tough. I try to think that's it's going to improve and waiting for it to improve. I think it's improving some. But he can't do it by himself, you know? He's just one man.

WERTHEIMER: The president's plan to privatize a portion of Social Security has not caught on with this group any better than it has with the rest of the country. Brenda Kerr works in computer training. For her, the prospect of choosing investment plans seemed daunting.

Ms. BRENDA KERR (Computer Training): Several of us in our office have recently gone through trying to figure out which way to invest our money in the private area. And we just don't feel qualified, and that's the frustrating part for me, is, like, I guess I like the opportunity to be able to invest, but are we making the right decision?

WERTHEIMER: Others said the plan seemed too complicated. Julie Hullett, who works at Belmont University, suggested that people are sentimental about Social Security the way it is now. She called providing benefits for the elderly part of the American way. We met Julie Hullett at Bosco's, a restaurant in the Hillsboro neighborhood close to downtown Nashville. Hullett went to work right out of high school. After years of success, she was downsized out of her job. Forced to start over, she's just now getting her college degree while she works at Belmont, a private Baptist university. She's a Republican, but like the other women we talked to, she thinks there are areas where the government should do more. I asked about health care.

Ms. JULIE HULLETT (Belmont University): I think that's a big, big issue that needs to be addressed. I'd like to go on the record as saying I'm totally opposed to socialized medicine. I want control over my health care. But I do believe that people in our country have a fundamental right to have basic vaccinations and treatment when they're ill, and that should not be determined by large insurance corporations. I really feel strongly about that.

WERTHEIMER: So there are some areas where you just feel, bottom line, somebody's got to do it, and it's going to have to be the government.

Ms. HULLETT: Well, I don't see private corporations stepping up to that. I mean, so who's going to do it? I mean, and charities and churches, they can only do so much. And, you know, I just don't see that happening.

WERTHEIMER: Julie Hullett's view is shared by two women we met at a downtown training center, working on their high school diplomas, hoping to qualify for job training programs. Caroline Page(ph) is a factory worker with two grown children. She's always had to work hard just to get by, but she didn't take that into account when she voted for President Bush.

Ms. CAROLINE PAGE (Factory Worker): I, more or less, voted for what I believe in, in a lot of his morals. He puts the kids out there first. And then there's church. You know he's a churchgoing man. I mean, he shows that.

WERTHEIMER: After she gets her GED, Carrie Evans wants to train as a forensic technician. She also voted for the president.

Ms. CARRIE EVANS (Voter): I don't know if it was because I was just partial to the way--you know, hoping that maybe he would do as well as his dad did. You know, I think his dad did well, you know, but I just felt that Bush should finish the eight year--you know, because maybe by the time his term was ended, this mess would be ended with Iraq and all of them.

WERTHEIMER: When Caroline said that she liked the president for his values, did you feel that his values more nearly matched your own?

Ms. EVANS: Yes. I mean, you know, he's very active in his children's life. And I think, you know, his wife is just great. She's just a little homey person.

WERTHEIMER: Clearly, both women relate to President Bush. However, they also feel strongly that people need more help from their government. Carrie Evans works in a dry cleaning shop.

Ms. EVANS: There's a lot of jobs like mine, is like a mom and pop, and they have no insurance or health-care plan for you. I don't have it, and if I have a car accident of if I have to have surgery, what am I supposed to do? So where does that leave me?

WERTHEIMER: Both women worry about homeless people in Nashville. They both think too many jobs are going overseas, and too many immigrants are taking American jobs. They want more regulation from the government and more help. I asked Caroline Page if, given her concerns, she might vote for a Democrat.

Ms. PAGE: I've been a Democrat all my life, but yet I voted Republican. But if you get a good Democrat up in there, I'll be voting Democrat again.

WERTHEIMER: A number of the women we talked to said they'd consider voting Democratic in presidential elections, depending, of course, on who's running. Pro-government conservatives are, according to Andrew Kohut, a group Republicans and Democrats will be courting. Linda Wertheimer, NPR News.

NORRIS: This is NPR, National Public Radio.

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