Activists upset that exit polls won't include orientation question

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com November 02 2002 12:00 AM ET

Gay political organizations Empire State Pride Agenda and the Human Rights Campaign say they determined this week that Voter News Service, the national exit-polling service owned by five television networks and the Associated Press, will not be including a question about sexual orientation in exit polling it plans for next week. On Friday both organizations released statements calling on VNS to reinstate its long-standing practice of asking voters on Election Day about their sexual orientation.

"This is profoundly disturbing," said Matt Foreman, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, New York State's largest lesbian and gay civil rights organization. "This has long been the sole means by which the lesbian and gay community can communicate the size and power of the gay vote to elected representatives and the general public. After years of being invisible, these statistics have helped us demonstrate that we exist as a key voting bloc."

"I hope this omission is simply an oversight," said Elizabeth Birch, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign. "But whatever the reasons, this decision will negatively impact millions of Americans and offer an incomplete and inaccurate picture of the electorate."

On a national level, VNS has consistently shown that those who self-identify as lesbians and gay men make up at least 4% of Election Day voters. Both HRC and the Pride Agenda maintain that the actual number is much greater, as many gay people are unwilling to disclose their sexual orientation when asked.