— By Stephen Richer
It’s assumed that gays are liberal Democrats (see, e.g,, Ramon Johnson and Matt Barnum). And for that reason, some Republicans don’t consider the gay vote worth pursuing. Gays, according to Republican Dave Agema, want a liberal government healthcare system because that’s just their nature/lifestyle.
“Folks, they (gay people) want free medical because they’re dying (when they’re) between 30 and 44 years old.” — Dave Agema
Voting patterns support the gays-as-liberal-Democrats thesis. Gays make up 5% of the presidential vote, and 76% of gays voted for Obama in 2012. State races return similar results.
But is gay support for Democrats instinctive and unbreakable? Or is it because Democrats have the edge on gay rights?
Testing this is hard. It would require a rerun of the 2012 election while equalizing the candidates’s positions and parties’ positions on gay rights. Harris Interactive took a guess: “A Harris Interactive-Logo TV poll that showed if Romney had the same stance on gay issues as President Obama, 22 percent of gay voters said they would be ‘more likely to vote for Romney.’”
22% is a huge jump. That would have put the 2012 gay vote at 54% for Obama to 44% for Romney — a differential more Republican-friendly than the Jewish vote, Latino vote, youth vote, black vote, and even the female vote. (NY Times exit poll)
Of course, that’s just the conjecture of Harris Interactive. But now we have a real data point: British Prime Minister David Cameron. In the last UK general election, only 11% of gays favored Cameron’s right-of-center party, the Conservative Party. But in July of this year, Cameron announced support for gay marriage and broad gay rights — a departure from his party’s median position.
The effect? There hasn’t been a new election, but polls suggest a huge rise in gay support for the Conservative Party and Cameron. In a system with plenty of party options, a whopping 30% of gay voters said they would vote Conservative in the upcoming general elections. When asked specifically about the office of Prime Minister, 46% of gays said they will support Cameron; 37% expressed support for the Labour Party’s Ed Miliban; and 17% for the Liberal Democrats’ Nick Clegg. (The Guardian)
It’s not every day that social scientists get such a nice controlled experiment, so let’s heed its suggestion: Gays are not reflexively liberal. If a Republican candidate bravely steps out in favor of gay rights, we can expect a chunk of gays to vote Republican.