Obama gains few extra votes from gays and lesbians

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama has barely moved the needle among the small percentage of voters who are gay or lesbian, despite his public support for lifting curbs on open homosexuality in the military and revamping marriage to include same-sex couples.

A massive Pew poll of 121,000 people found that only 3.4 percent declared themselves to be sexual minorities.

But only 71 percent of gays or lesbians who are registered voters declared their support for Obama, said the survey, which was conducted from June to September.

Twenty-two percent of the surveyed gays and lesbians predicted they would vote for Gov. Mitt Romney.

That’s a very small shift from the 2004 and 2008 elections, when three out of four self-identified lesbians or gays voted for the Democratic candidate.

“Exit poll data basically shows the same thing” as the new survey, said Gallup editor-in-chief Frank Newport.

In 2008, for example, Obama won 70 percent of votes from gays and lesbians, while Sen. John McCain took 27 percent.

In 2004, Sen. John Kerry won 77 percent of the vote, while President George Bush won 23 percent.

In 2000, Vice President Al Gore won 71 percent, while Bush had 23 percent.

Obama’s scored at 71 percent, despite his repeated public support for causes associated with gay and lesbian advocacy groups.

In December 2010, Obama pushed Congress to allow the Pentagon to accept open homosexuality in the armed services. The legal change allows gays and lesbians to serve in the military while showing their sexual orientation.

In May 2012, Obama announced his support for single-sex marriage, despite widespread public opposition to same-sex marriage.

Progressives say gays and lesbians should be allowed to have the legal amenities and social status that usually accompany marriage.

Conservatives say marriage should be reserved for dual-sex couples, because it evolved to help children grow to adulthood in stable families. That view has prevailed in 31 state referendums.

Courts or legislatures in six states — such as Massachusetts and New York — have established single-sex marriage. Under a 1996 law, the federal government does not recognize those states’ single-sex unions as marriages.

Although Obama has gained few extra votes by supporting the political goals pushed by gay advocates, he likely has gained a significant amount of political donations.

After he declared his support in May 2012 for laws that would allow same-sex couples to get marriage licenses, he held a series of high-dollar fundraisers in New York and Los Angeles that were attended by fashion and entertainment industry executives.

Those industries employ a large-than-average proportion of gays and lesbians, including filmmaker Harvey Weinstein and TV personality Ellen DeGeneres.

Similarly, Obama’s list of bundlers includes a significant number of gays and same-sex couples, such as Weinstein, Tim Gill and Scott Miller, and Gerald Acker and Barry Goodman.

Romney’s gay and lesbian supporters are more likely to be older, whiter, religious and in long-term relationships than Obama’s gay and lesbian supporters, according to Gallup.

Twenty percent of gays and lesbians describe themselves as conservative, said the poll.

However, Gallup’s poll did not explain how that 20 percent was divided between libertarian conservatives and social conservatives.

The Pew poll was clouded by lack of cooperation from 4.4 percent of the respondents, which declined to state their sexual orientation. Some of those people may be homosexuals.

The Pew survey did not identify the percentage of bisexuals or transsexuals — the B and T in the well-known LGBT acronym — in the overall 3.4 percent score.

However, studies of sexual minorities shows that the number of transsexuals is far smaller than the number of gays or lesbians.

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Neil Munro