[EDITOR'S NOTE:] The following is a guest post by Malcolm Lazin. Malcolm is the Executive Director of Equality Forum, a national and international GLBT civil rights organization with an educational focus. Equality Forum undertakes high impact initiatives, produces documentary films, coordinates GLBT History Month and presents annually the largest national and international GLBT civil rights forum.
Equality Forum, an international gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) civil rights organization, today released the results of a study suggesting that gay and lesbian voters may vote as a block, and called for future exit polling of GLBT voters. Equality Forum used the recent Philadelphia mayoral primary as its subject for the study.
The city of Philadelphia has a highly-Democratic voter base, and the May 15, 2007 Democratic primary was essentially the election for the city’s next mayor. Five well-known politicians were seeking the office: two longtime Members of Congress, a former City Councilman, a State Representative who chairs the Appropriations Committee in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, and a wealthy former Deputy Mayor. The former City Councilman, Michael Nutter, spent most of the race lagging in fourth place before he surged to victory, garnering 36.6% of the citywide vote.
Equality Forum reviewed the votes cast in seven distinct Philadelphia gay neighborhoods and found that Nutter garnered 74% of the vote in these neighborhoods. A review of the top 12 Philadelphia tracts identified in the U.S. Census as having the most same-sex couples residing in the same household found that Nutter received 69% of the vote in these census tracts.
The study compared the percentage of votes from the gay neighborhoods and census tracts to the percentage of votes each candidate received in the respective wards. The gay voting divisions averaged a 17% higher percentage vote for Nutter than the respective overall ward percentage.
The study is important both in its methodology and the result. It demonstrates that even in a field of gay-friendly candidates, a candidate who can provide the right cues can be the beneficiary of a GLBT block vote. Block voting increases a group’s political importance and power.
Nutter was viewed as a progressive outsider by a community that is perceived as outside the mainstream. Nutter actively campaigned for the gay vote and sent cues that he embraced diversity and wanted to shake up the establishment for Philadelphia’s benefit.
We believe that our methodology can be used to measure GLBT voters in municipal, state and federal elections. Our hope is that this study will encourage exit polls of GLBT voters in the 2008 federal primary and general elections. By focusing on areas across the nation with identifiable gay neighborhoods, an exit poll can generate a more comprehensive picture about GLBT voters and why they voted for a candidate.