Go Inside the Exit Polling of Gay Voters and Marriage Equality

By Lucas Grindley

Originally published on Advocate.com November 07 2012 8:53 PM ET

Exit polls have a lot to say about the role LGBT issues played in the election, and on how President Obama's support for marriage equality might have resonated with the electorate.

Lesbian, gay and bisexual voters sided heavily with Obama, for example, helping to propel him to a commanding win. Exit polls conducted for The New York Times and other media outlets indicated that 5% of voters were gay, lesbian or bisexual. (Voters weren't asked whether they are transgender.) Of those, 76% voted for Obama. While that number is high, it's also a six-percentage-point increase over the 2008 election for the president.

Where marriage equality was on the ballot, exit polls offer insight into whether it helped or hurt the president. The Associated Press reports that exit polls in Maryland, where voters approved legalizing same-sex marriage, show those who sided with equality broke strongly for Obama, while those opposed joined Romney. It was Obama and marriage equality that prevailed.

The AP reports that the president's standing among black voters was strong in the Maryland exit poll, with nine in 10 on his side, and they seemed to vote for Obama even when disagreeing with him on marriage equality. The Maryland exit poll found black voters evenly divided on that question.

Looking nationally, Latino voters actually were found in exit polls reported by ABC News to be more supportive of marriage equality than the general population.

As expected, younger voters in Maryland lined up behind marriage equality, with the AP finding seven in 10 under the age of 29 in favor. But even among middle-aged voters from 30 to 44, about 60% backed marriage equality. It wasn't until the over-45 crowd that opposition began to creep in. Almost exactly the same age breakdown was found in exit polls in Maine.

The issue's resonance with women was clear in exit polling. Nearly two thirds of women with children supported same-sex marriage in Maryland. Women in Maine favored it. And in Washington, where voters also approved a measure to legalize same-sex marriage, a majority of married women supported it.

The issue resonated strongly with the president's base. Exit polling reported by the AP in Washington found that eight in 10 Democrats and a majority of independents supported the marriage law. The same support from the base was found in Maine's exit poll.

It wasn't a winning issue in Washington among married men or among Republicans or among those who go to church every week. Still, the coalition of supporters was enough to not only elect Obama, but also to pass marriage equality in Washington, Maine, and Maryland.