Pollsters and pundits pouring through the 2012 election results have arrived at an amazing conclusion: The LGBT vote proved to be a huge factor in the re-election of President Barack Obama.
Two separate groups – the Williams Institute in conjunction with Gallup Poll as well as the Human Rights Campaign – sifted through the numbers provided by exit polling, which for the first time asked voters if they were gay, lesbian or bisexual. Exit polling showed that 5% of the electorate identified as LGBT, according to Williams Distinguished Scholar Gary J. Gates.
Like all other minority groups including Latinos, Asians and African-Americans, LGBT voters overwhelmingly supported Obama over Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, 76% to 22%, according to Gallup as well as HRC.
Nationwide, Obama received 62,088,847 votes (51%), or 3,305,710 votes more than Romney.
As 5% of the electorate, 6,043,599 LGBT Americans voted overall, giving 4,593,136 votes to re-elect the President. Had LGBT Americans voted the same as the national average, Obama would have only received 3,082,235 LGBT votes. Because the LGBT community swung so significantly to Obama, he received 1,510,901 more LGBT votes – an astounding 45.7% of the President’s total popular vote margin, according to HRC.
LGBT Americans made a huge difference in two key swing states, Ohio and Florida, Gates said.
In Ohio, the LGBT vote swung the results to Obama, Gates said. Straight voters in Ohio favored Romney by 50% to 48%. With the LGBT vote (which favored Obama by an 85% to 15% margin) included, the results were reversed with Obama winning by a margin of 50% to 48%. Support from just 35% of LGBT voters for the GOP candidate would have resulted in a Romney victory, he said.
In Florida, where serious voting problems caused the Sunshine State to be the last to report election results, straight voters went 50% for Romney and 49% for Obama. With the LGBT vote (estimated at 71% for Obama and 28% for Romney) included, Obama won by a margin of 50% to 49%. Support from 37% of the LGBT electorate for Romney would have given the Republican a win, Gates said.
To win the national popular vote, Romney would have needed to take 51% of LGBT voters.
In the absence of LGBT voters, Obama’s Electoral College winning margin of 332 to 206 would have been substantially reduced: 285 to 253, which is still enough to win the election.
During his first term, the Obama Administration made significant advances for LGBT rights and the President pushed for the repeal of the military’s discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. And when Obama “evolved” on the issue of marriage equality, many pundits wondered how that would play on Election Day. In hindsight, which is always 20/20, Obama’s decision reflected public opinion that has shifted in favor of equality.
The HRC dissection
HRC says America showed a cultural sea-change on LGBT equality as reflected in voters’ attitudes and ballots.
“Last week’s results make clear that equality was a winner at the polls and confirms the inherent fairness of the American people,” said Chad Griffin, HRC president. “The President proved that support for marriage equality is not just the right thing to do but also a path toward electoral success.”
LGBT issues such as marriage equality has been used by the GOP as wedge issues to drive conservative turnout, but that did not happen in 2012. In two presidential election cycles, marriage has gone from a wedge for the Religious Right and ultra conservatives to a motivator for liberals, progressives and independents.
Among the findings in the poll conducted for HRC by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research:
• Obama voters were twice as likely to say that the marriage issue was important to their vote (42%) than Romney voters (23%)
-- However, in an open ended question where voters were asked the most important reason to vote against the President’s re-election, only 2% cited "gay marriage."
• Marriage equality supporters have more intensity than marriage equality opponents:
-- Among supporters of marriage equality, 40% said the issue was important to them compared to 33% among opponents of marriage equality
• There is no evidence that this issue mobilized base Republican voters:
-- There are more Romney voters that support marriage equality (27%) than Obama voters that oppose marriage equality (18%)
• Marriage equality support maintains a national majority – including among diverse demographics:
-- Consistent with pre-election surveys, half of 2012 voters favor marriage equality
-- This position reflects strong support among Democrats (71%) and a solid majority among Independents (53%), as well as support among African Americans (55%) and Latinos (58%)
“Both parties should be vying for the votes of the LGBT community and our allies,” Griffin said. “With the growing breadth and depth of our electoral power, no one should take our votes for granted.”
This fair-minded majority resulted in landslide victories up and down the ballot for LGBT Americans. Aside from President Obama’s re-election, voters sent the first openly gay U.S. Senator to Washington in Tammy Baldwin, increased the number of openly gay and bisexual members of Congress, affirmed marriage equality at the ballot in Maine, Maryland and Washington, defeated a discriminatory marriage amendment in Minnesota, retained an Iowa Supreme Court Justice who decided for marriage equality, and built up state legislative majorities for relationship recognition in states like Colorado and Minnesota.
The full memo on the survey is available HERE.
More on HRC’s electoral victories is available HERE.
The survey, commissioned by the Human Rights Campaign and conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, was of 1,001 voters nationally who participated in the 2012 election. It was conducted between Nov. 5 and 7 among those who had already voted or were almost certain they would vote in the 2012 election and carries an overall margin of error of +/- 3.10.