wpostServer: http://css.washingtonpost.com/wpost2

How Obama moves the needle on gay marriage

at 08:00 AM ET, 05/25/2012

The President of the United States is the most powerful person in the world. But when it comes to shifting public opinion, even POTUS struggles.

So when President Obama came out in favor of gay marriage, the storyline was all about how evenly split the American population is on gay marriage and how it might affect Obama in November’s election. It was rarely about whether Obama could actually bring people with him.

Yet anecdotal evidence suggests he might be doing just that — at least with one very specific group of people: African-Americans.
Dale Robinson waves his flag for people driving by a rally of the Dallas LGBT Community to applaud President Obama's stance on gay marriage and in the Oaklawn neighborhood in Dallas, Texas, on May 9. (AP Photo/The Dallas Morning News, Brad Loper)

A Washington Post-ABC news poll released earlier this week showed record support for gay marriage, with 53 percent supporting it and just 39 percent opposing it — an unprecedented 14-point gap.

Similarly, a Fox News poll conducted shortly after Obama’s announcement showed a record-high 70 percent of people embracing some sort of legal status for gay couples — be it gay marriage or civil unions.

Also this week, a poll in Maryland from Democratic-leaning automated pollster Public Policy Polling showed support for a gay marriage law there increasing from 52 percent in March to 57 percent today — a strong indication that the state may be the first where people will actually vote to approve gay marriage.

The problem with all of it? It’s rare that a president moves public opinion on an issue, especially when that president is not very popular. (For more on that, see Ezra Klein’s great piece in the New Yorker.) And Obama, at last check, is not terribly popular.

There is, however, one group with which the president is extremely popular.

In the Post-ABC poll, 65 percent of black voters strong approve of the president’s performance. (By contrast, 38 percent strongly approved of the so-called “first black president,” Bill Clinton, in the Spring of 1996.)

Since Obama came out in support of gay marriage, everyone and their mother has mused aloud about whether it might jeopardize turnout in the black community, which has historically been strongly opposed to gay marriage.

But the limited and anecdotal — and we stress limited and anecdotal — evidence from recent polls suggest that may be changing.

The Post-ABC poll showed support for gay marriage in the black community jumping from around 41 percent to 59 percent. Despite the small sample size of that demographic in the poll, that is a statistically significant shift.

And PPP’s polling backs it up.

In its Maryland poll, support for the gay marriage law in the African-American community increased from 39 percent to 55 percent in just two months. And the same pollster has found similar shifts among black voters in Pennsylvania and North Carolina in recent weeks — the latter which passed a gay marriage ban right before Obama changed his position.

The sample size in any of these four polls isn’t enough to draw broad conclusions; we cannot stress that enough. But the fact that all the polls all show roughly the same thing suggests strongly that Obama’s shift on this issue has translated broadly to the black community.

And even before his decision, the shift was well underway; Pew polling showed just 22 percent of African-Americans supported same-sex marriage in 2003 and 2004; by the time Obama announced his position, it had risen to 37 percent.

That shift will only be felt marginally in the general electorate, given black voters only comprise only about one in eight voters.

But these voters turning out in November will be crucial to Obama winning another term, and turning them off was the biggest risk he was taking when he made the big announcement.

And right now, they seem to be sticking with him.

Booker hits back at critics: Newark Mayor Cory Booker, just a few days removed from his flap on “Meet the Press,” is speaking out against his critics.

Booker, who has more than a million Twitter followers, took to the popular social media site Thursday to respond to those who are still unhappy with his criticism of the Obama campaign’s efforts to tarnish Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital.

“Sorry I make u sick. And sorry I made a mistake. I’m sorry that 15 seconds on MTP erodes my 20 yrs of work in inner cities around our nation,” Booker said.

He added: “In the end we are all imperfect. Best we can do is learn from our mistakes, not let them stop u but make u stronger.”

More trouble for Warren: The controversy over Elizabeth Warren’s claim to be a Native American continues to evolve, with a Boston Globe report today that casts doubt on her contention that she didn’t know she was being described that way.

The Globe reports that Harvard University listed Warren as a minority in its federally mandated diversity statistics, which according to school officials and federal guidelines are rarely based on anything except that employee’s own description of themselves.

The Globe report also notes that the Warren’s contention that she is 1/32nd Cherokee does not even meet Harvard’s or the federal diversity report’s definition of a Native American.

Warren’s campaign did not address the new revelations.

Romney compares budget-cutting plans to Christie: Time magazine’s Mark Halperin has published the transcript of a lengthy interview with Romney in which the presidential candidate compares his lack of specifics on budget-cutting to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R).

Pressed repeatedly on just what he’s planning to cut, Romney demurred.

“Remember, that was what was asked of Chris Christie. It’s like, ‘Come on Chris, why won’t you tell us all the things you’re going to change?’ He said, ‘You know what, I’m going to cut back on spending. We’re going to work together with the legislature to find ways that Republicans and Democrats can come together and find ways to reduce spending,’” Romney said. “And the media kept saying to Chris, ‘Come on, give us the details, give us the details, we want to hang you with them.’ And he said, ‘Look, my plan is to reduce spending and to get us to a balanced budget. He’s done that, and he’s reduced taxes as well.’”

Fixbits:

A new Civitas poll in North Carolina shows Romney leading Obama 47 percent to 45 percent.

Nate Silver says Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) is likely to win his recall race, as labor continues to criticize the Democratic National Committee’s lack of involvement.

Ron Paul’s takeover of the Nevada state GOP continues to cause problems.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) is up with a new TV ad highlighting her work on the Arlington National Cemetery scandal.

Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) will announce the endorsements of two Medal of Honor winners today. He’s also going up with a new statewide radio ad on veterans.

Dueling endorsements in the Florida Senate race: Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) gets Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno, while former senator George LeMieux (R) gets Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.)

A break for Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in the state’s 2013 governor’s race: The GOP may pick its nominee at a convention, which would favor Cuccinelli over Lt. Gov. Bill Boling.

The National Association of Realtors PAC goes big for Rep. Gary Miller (R-Calif.), spending $709,000 on his tough reelection bid.

Must-reads:

Romney campaign begins quiet push for African American voters” — Nia-Malika Henderson and Philip Rucker, Washington Post

Romney Slow to Engage in the Battle for the Hispanic Vote” — Beth Reinhard, National Journal

 
Read what others are saying