The high value of the gay vote


Y’all thought I was kidding when I wrote this summer that the Republican Party and its nominee, Mitt Romney, were leaving on the table the votes of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans that could decide the margin of victory.


(The New York Times)

A New York Times story on Friday showed just how significant a shift that would have been. “Exit polls showed that 76 percent of voters who identified as gay supported Mr. Obama last week, and that 22 percent supported Mr. Romney,” The Times noted. “Among straight people, each candidate received 49 percent of the vote.”

With Obama and Romney tied for the straight vote, Romney’s inability to crack the president’s hold on LGBT support proved electorally fatal. Now imagine what would have happened if the two men had the same record on LGBT issues. The Harris Interactive-Logo TV poll (released in August) showed that 67 percent of gays supported Obama and 23 percent supported Romney. A swing of 22 percent of the vote from the president to the GOP nominee would have resulted in a tie — 45 percent to 45 percent.

So, with Obama and Romney tied in the real world for the straight vote and tied for the LGBT vote in a hypothetical one, how would the tie be broken? The answer lies in a Gallup study from October. “While 45% of LGBT individuals describe their political views as liberal or very liberal,” wrote Gary J. Gates and Frank Newport, “one in five (20%) describe themselves as conservative or very conservative.”

That means, if the Republican Party and Romney had views on gay rights that were in line with the American people, the GOP nominee would be president-elect today. If the GOP continues to leave on the table votes of people who would be open to supporting it, were it not for the party’s extreme policy positions, it might be a long time before a Republican is called “president-elect” again.

Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.

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