While surfing the web tonight for information about the remaining undecided races from the election, I ran across a little tidbit over on the widely-respected and accurate site FiveThirtyEight.com that shocked me:
John Kerry received a larger percentage (77%) of the gay/lesbian vote in 2004 than Barack Obama did in this election (70%).
[Update: As Kathryn points out in the comments, transgendered people were not included in this exit polling data.]
Now I am usually the first person to point out that the LGBT community is a very large and diverse group. We aren't all Democrats by a long shot nor should we be. I also realize that we gays and lesbians are not just single-issue voters (contrary to popular belief). But honestly, I am left scratching my head over this statistic. Obama outperformed Kerry in virtually all of the other demographic groups (age 65+ voters being the only other exception), so why were we the anomaly?
As one of his constituents here in Arizona I know that John McCain was once more moderate in regards to LGBT issues, so did that win him more support among gay/lesbian voters? To me that all flew out the window when he chose Sarah Palin as his VP pick. Her ultra-conservative views were apparent from the start, but in the final few weeks before the election she publicly broke from McCain and announced that she did in fact support a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. I myself could never cast a vote for a ticket that put someone with those views a heart beat away from the presidency regardless of the likelihood of such an amendment ever being ratified.
I have witnessed some anger about how Obama's comments on gay marriage/civil unions were used in robocalls in support of Prop. 8 in California. We can argue back in forth until we are blue in the face whether or not Obama should publicly supported gay marriage and if that would have become a wedge issue, but it did cause such resentment that people voted for John McCain because of it? Wouldn't that be like cutting off your nose to spite your face? And more to the point, did not Kerry have the same position on gay marriage?
Could it have been racism? I do not want to believe in that possibility as our movement has always been about a message of tolerance and diversity. Did homosexuals find John Kerry more appealing or charismatic than Barack Obama? You would have a hard time convincing me. Just search YouTube for video of Kerry's acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention in 2004 and compare it to Obama's speech this year. Argument won.
Finally, I am left wondering if perhaps nationwide more gay/lesbian voters simply did not vote this election. I doubt very much that is true. With anti-gay propositions on the ballot in four states, massive get-out-the-vote efforts, and people feeling more passionate about this election than any in recent memory, it would be surprising if more LGBT voters simply sat this one out.
I do not want to read too much into this statistic, but I would like to understand it. Leave a comment and tell me why you think this happened. More importantly, do you think there is a message we should take away from it?