Is it this simple? Exit polls show Mitt Romney and Barack Obama splitting the straight vote, so then gays decided the election — or so the thinking goes.
Exit polls show Obama and Romney each took 49% of the straight vote. Meanwhile gay, lesbian and bisexual voters broke overwhelmingly for the president, 76% to 22%.
Analysts from the Williams Institute tell the New York Times today that those stark numbers are proof it was actually the gay vote that should be credited with sending Obama back to the White House. He ignited excitement among LGBT voters by announcing his support for marriage equality in May, when Newsweek crowned him with a rainbow halo on its cover and declared Obama the "First Gay President." He also won the endorsement of this magazine, The Advocate, which weighed into a presidential election for the first time in its 45-year history.
The more prevalent post-election narrative has been that President Obama won because of a decline in the voting power of the white male American. Instead, Obama united a coalition of minority voters that includes African-Americans, Hispanics and women, plus inciting strong turnout from young voters.
But could it be much simpler than all that? Did Obama and Romney split the straight vote while the gay vote went decidedly toward the eventual winner?
The Human Rights Campaign in its own analysis of the election has also claimed the LGBT vote as a deciding factor in who won. It pointed out on Tuesday that President Obama won the national popular vote by 3,305,710 votes. And with exit polls indicating that gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans sent far more votes to Obama than Romney — 4,593,136 in total — it was more than the margin he needed to win.
"Had the LGB population voted the same as the national average, President Obama would have only received 3,082,235 LGB votes," the HRC said in its analysis. "In other words, because the LGB community swung so significantly to President Obama, he received 1,510,901 more LGB votes – an astounding 45.7% of the President’s total popular vote margin."