According to exit polling done after last week’s midterm election, support for Republican candidates among LGB voters rose considerably in the past two years.
After Republicans boasted wide gains in the Nov. 2 elections, taking control of the U.S. House — as well as the Pennsylvania House — CNN reported that 31 percent of self-identified LGB voters favored Republican candidates for U.S. House — a jump from 19 percent in 2008.
Support for Republicans also rose among non-LGB voters, although not as dramatically — from 44 percent in 2008 to 52 percent this year.
R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of national LGBT group Log Cabin Republicans, said the heightened support for Republicans from the gay community could be attributed to a number of factors, one of which he said was the fact that conservative communities are becoming more accepting of LGBT members.
“There has been an increasing awareness, tolerance and acceptance,” he said. “People are at different levels, where some have become more tolerant and others fully embrace the gay community, but I think we’ve been moving toward this awakening in that someone can be gay and conservative or gay and a person of faith. People can be contributors to society and their sexual orientation has absolutely nothing do with their merits or their capabilities.”
Cooper said there was also a marked change in tone from the 2008 election cycle to the most recent campaigns, as he said conservative candidates began to distance themselves from using LGBT issues to generate votes.
“There was an absence of attacks and hate speech and vitriol directed at the gay community that we have seen in the past,” he said. “I’m not saying that’s completely done and we can sit and relax — there are still some social conservatives who take issue with us being members of this party — but, all in all, when you compare the 2010 races to previous ones, they certainly moved away from targeting our community. I think that’s in part a product of efforts by our organization to meet with our Republican peers and say, ‘Even if you personally aren’t completely comfortable with equality measures, at a minimum you need to recognize that this does not move the party forward.’”
While the LGB Republican vote soared past 2008’s number, it also marked the highest level of support Republicans have seen from gay voters since 2000, when 25 percent of the community voted GOP.
Cooper said that, like many other demographic groups, LGBs were likely also motivated to vote Republican this year because of dissatisfaction with the current economic conditions.
Micah Mahjoubian, co-chair of the Liberty City Democratic Club, acknowledged that the LGB stats reflect part of a national movement, but noted it’s one that didn’t hold true in Philadelphia.
“I think it was clear that the national trend was that more Republicans turned out to vote than Democrats did across the board, in all demographics,” he said. “The LGBT vote is as diverse as any other demographic so the trend would be the same there as well. But I don’t think these polls reflected what happened specifically in the Philadelphia region, where Democrats turned out at a higher percentage — around 40 percent — than most pundits expected.”
Cooper said his agency is going to also work hard to encourage LGBs to continue to vote Republican in future elections.
Of the 17 LCR-endorsed candidates, 12 were elected this month, and he said the organization is going to align itself closely with those lawmakers and others to advance pro-LGBT measures.
“We need to bolster the support for those Republicans who are elected to office and who are actually supportive of our community,” he said. “We need to support what they’re doing and work with them on legislation like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and look for opportunities to address issues important to us that may have been overlooked in the past.”
Jen Colletta can be reached at [email protected].