Opinion: Gay power
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It is a perennial complaint, heard election after election: Too many Americans don’t vote. But based on a massive new survey, one segment of the population surely must be excluded from this rebuke--gays.
The study this spring by San Francisco-based Community Marketing Inc. found that an eye-popping 92.5% of gay men reported that they voted in the 2004 presidential race, and almost 84% said they cast ballots in the 2006 midterm election. Among lesbians, the results were almost as impressive; nearly 91% said they voted in 2004; for the midterm, the figure was 78%.
By comparison, the Washington-based Committee for the Study of the American Electorate put the turnout for all Americans eligible to vote at about 61% in 2004 and roughly 40% in 2006.
Consider that last statistic for a moment--when matched with the findings by Community Marketing for the ’06 contest, the bottom line is a turnout rate among gay men more than twice that for the nation’s voters as a whole.
The information on voter participation by gays was compiled as part of a larger study of consumer interests and habits within the community slated for release later this month. The survey questioned more than 12,000 gay men and more than 10,000 lesbians, giving its results a minuscule error margin of plus or minus 1%.
The figures ‘demonstrate ...
that the political parties would be smart to pay attention to the issues that mean the most to gay and lesbian voters,” said Tom Roth, president of Community Marketing. “We have far more at stake than the average voter and we’re therefore far more engaged in the political process.”
Indeed, the turnout results were released--not coincidentally--as the Democratic presidential contenders prepare to meet in Los Angeles Thursday night for the first candidate debate sponsored by gay groups and devoted to issues of particular interest to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.
The forum likely will become the subject of its own debate: Is the gathering a wise political move by the Democrats? The Community Marketing findings provide powerful ammunition for those arguing it is.
In raw numbers, the survey estimates that gay voters total close to 9 million. In the 2004 election, about 122 million Americans went to the polls.
The study did not examine the partisan preferences among the gay constituency. But given the parties’ respective positions on gay rights, one can assume the tilt is heavily Democratic.
Community Marketing also reports that large majorities--more than 70%--of gay male and lesbian respondents agreed with the statement that ‘homosexuality will still be a divisive issue in the U.S.A. in 10 years.’
On this matter, the survey presumably identified common ground with the evangelical community.
-- Don Frederick