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Obama's win and the gay vote
News Update Wed., Nov. 5, 2008
by Lisa Keen, Keen News Service
2008-11-05

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More than any other presidential candidate before, Barack Obama included gays as part of his core speeches to voters, despite decades of conventional wisdom that has held that the mere acknowledgement of gays could imperil a campaign. Obama acknowledged gays when he announced his run for the presidency. He did so before national television and church audiences that were considered by some to be reluctant to associate with gays. He did so in accepting the Democratic nomination in Colorado, and he did so in his final campaign stops in Jacksonville, Fla.; Columbus, Ohio; and Raleigh, N.C.

And he still won.

With a message that included gay people both when he needed the votes and when he had clinched victory, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama won the White House Nov. 4. The triumph not only marked an historic moment in American history—with his election as the first African American as president—but a dramatic improvement in the political climate in Washington, D.C., for LGBT people.

In the third line of his speech before more than 100,000 people gathered in Grant Park in his adopted hometown of Chicago, Obama said his election is testament to the power of democracy 'spoken by young and old; rich and poor; Democrat and Republican; Black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American; gay, straight; disabled and not disabled.'

Winning 338 electoral votes to Republican John McCain's 163, Obama did not require the support of gays to secure his win. However, voting appears to have been very close in some states that were important to his success. In Florida, where a typical distribution of the gay votes historically ( 70 percent ) would have provided the Democrat with about 275,000 votes, Obama won by only 199,000 votes. And while the Sunshine State overall gave Obama 51 percent of the vote, heavily gay Miami-Dade—home of gay popular resort South Beach— gave him 58 percent.

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese characterized Obama's win as a 'paradigm shift' for LGBT people.

'The pendulum has swung away from the anti-gay forces that dominated the political landscape for too long and toward new leadership that acknowledges our equality.'

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, called Obama's election 'the dawn of a new political era of hope' that 'brings a promise for a sea change in the tenor of the national dialogue on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.'

The voting results reported this week are definitive but not official. They are based on a combination of data—surveys collected from voters at the polls Nov. 4; actual results from selected precincts; and surveys conducted by phone prior to Election Day.

The data was gathered on behalf of the National Election Pool, a coalition of ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, NBC and the Associated Press. The polling firm of Edison Media Research collected the data at 1,300 precincts around the country, involving every state; but, more sampling was done in the most competitive states. While most of the data was gathered at polling places, some was gathered by phone to include samples from Washington and Oregon—which vote exclusively by mail—and to account for people who were able to cast their votes before Nov. 4. The telephone surveys collected data only from landlines, but the exit polls gathered information about cell phones from exit-poll voters to use in assessing their projections.

Data available thus far on voting in heavily gay precincts suggest the gay vote for Obama was at an unprecedented high. In the last several presidential elections, the percentage of LGB voters supporting the Democrat has hovered around 70 to 75 percent. But Election Day voting was much stronger:

—In heavily gay Provincetown, Mass., 87 percent of voters supported Obama, compared to only 11 percent for McCain, and 2 percent for others or no votes. Massachusetts overall voted 62 percent for Obama, and 36 percent for McCain.

—While 61 percent of Californians supported Obama over 37 percent for McCain, 85 percent of heavily gay San Francisco supported Obama—versus 13 percent for McCain and two percent for others.

—Fifty-five percent of voters in Pennsylvania supported Obama over 45 percent for McCain, but in Philadelphia's heavily gay 2nd and 5th wards, 83 percent of voters supported Obama.

—In heavily gay Dupont Circle ( Precinct 15 ) in Washington, D.C., Obama won 89 percent of the vote.

—In the heavily gay precinct 1233 in Dallas, 63 percent of voters supported Obama, while 57 percent of the entire city did so. Fifty-five percent of the state supported McCain.

—Chicago's heavily gay 44th Ward went 86 percent for Obama over 13 percent for McCain.

A Harris poll online survey conducted Oct. 20-27 with 231 self-identified LGBT 'likely voters' predicted 81 percent of LGBT voters favored Obama while 16 percent favored McCain. A similar poll in August had shown 68 percent favored Obama, with 10 percent leaning toward McCain.

Patrick Sammon—president of Log Cabin Republicans, a national gay Republican group—said he puts more trust in data from the overall exit poll data nationally, which said once again that 4 percent of voters were GLB and that 70 percent voted for Obama and 27 percent for McCain, with 3 percent for others.

'LGBT voters don't live in just Dupont Circle and Chelsea,' said Sammon in a telephone interview Nov. 5.

But U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., said both sets of data may be right. The results from precincts that are heavily gay, she said, reflect a demographic that has significant access to information about each candidate's stand on LGBT issues, while the national exit poll is capturing LGB voters in places that may not have that kind of information at the ready. And in those places, she said, LGBT people are 'making their minds up on a larger array of issues.'

Hilary Rosen, a longtime Democratic gay activist and political director for HuffingtonPost.com, wrote Nov. 3 that she believes McCain lost the election in May 2006 when he 'went to kiss the ring of Jerry Falwell.'

'He began to support every anti-gay initiatve he could find,' wrote Rosen. 'On those and so many other issues, he merged into the George Bush and right wing clone that in these closing days of the campaign have choked him beyond breath.'

©2008 Keen News Service


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