By Michelle Garcia
Originally published on Advocate.com November 15 2012 4:00 AM ET
As last week's election results have shown, LGBT voters were a formidable force in reelecting President Obama, electing several LGBT candidates and LGBT-friendly politicos, and passing an unprecedented three statewide ballot initiatives to establish marriage equality and rejecting one that would ban same-sex marriage.
The Advocate attempted to dig into exactly how that landslide for equality happened by using an unscientific online survey open to any of our readers who said they had voted. What we found is that the vast majority of LGBT people are politically active or aware, especially those who were able to vote on marriage equality initiatives this year (9% of Advocate exit poll respondents). Generally, voters in those four states — Maryland, Maine, Washington, and Minnesota — were the most active in donating time, or money to campaigns.
But at least a quarter of all of The Advocate's exit poll respondents from last week followed a candidate, political action committee, political party, or ballot measure campaign on social media sites. Another 23% said they had signed petitions, and 22% donated money to a campaign or group. According to the Human Rights Campaign, more than $20 million was contributed to campaigns to ensure equality across the country.
That's the kind of grassroots activism that has reshaped the issues landscape in less than a decade, with the political reality now flipped. It is no longer a liability to step out for equality. In fact, it's increasingly strange for Democrats and progressives to not support marriage equality, while even some Republicans are starting to worry that the new rules might apply to them as well.
Our exit poll leaves no doubt that LGBT citizens, by being vocal and active, have led to this tipping point. Ending "don't ask, don't tell" was a vast campaign that required lobbying, letter-writing, lawsuits, fund-raising, and legislative wrangling. This effort, along with the establishment of marriage equality in nine states plus the District of Columbia, could not have occurred without serious people power. That is why we asked readers what they were willing to do going forward to ensure that even more pro-gay laws are passed.
The three most popular tasks on to-do lists for Advocate readers were signing a petition (18%), donating time or money to an organization (14%), or educating others on the issues (14%). A combined 15% said they would join a protest or political action group, 13% would communicate directly with elected officials, 9% would volunteer, 9% would be active in social media, and 6% would help register others to vote.
Get a summary of more results from the exit poll on the following page.
- The vast majority of readers (93%) said they voted for Barack Obama, but about 3% of Advocate readers chose Mitt Romney, 2% chose libertarian Gary Johnson, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein got 1% of your votes.
- When it came to feelings about the next four years in the White House, 55% of LGBT voters said they felt optimistic and another 34% were excited. No doubt, LGBT voters are rallied by speculation that Obama will try to usher in marriage equality with the end of the Defense of Marriage Act and will help pass another critical gay rights bill, such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The final combined 11% said they either felt neutral, concerned, or scared about a second Obama term. But 72% of respondents said they were scared of his challenger, Mitt Romney, making it to the White House, and another 23% were concerned. Only 4% were excited or optimistic.
- CNN's exit poll showed that 60% of voters said the economy was the most important issue of the election, just like The Advocate's readers. Also similar to CNN's poll, the next most important issue was health care reform, but Advocate readers ranked LGBT rights as the third most important issue. Jobs, education, the environment, energy, Social Security, foreign policy, and defense were the remaining issues of importance, in that order, to Advocate poll respondents.
- And when it comes to LGBT rights, it's clear that the vast majority of you see marriage equality as the most important change that can happen in the next four years. The second most important is passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and then protecting LGBT students from bullying and violence in schools. Funding HIV/AIDS research and care was ranked last in our poll.
- It took less than 15 minutes for 43% of you to vote, and 21% voted early. It took 15 to 30 minutes for 19% of readers to get through the polls, while it took more than 30 minutes for 17% of you to vote. Many who took longest to get through lines at the polls were in New York (no doubt because of the harsh effects Hurricane Sandy had on polling). But predictably, states where liberals complained that voter suppression efforts were made — Florida, California, Michigan, Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania — also had high wait times.
- Michelle Obama or Ann Romney? It wasn't even close, with 97% of you prefering Michelle. The first lady typically has higher approval ratings than the president. Gallup shows Michelle peaking at 72% approval shortly after the president was inaugurated and remaining steady around 66% since 2010.
- Many of you couldn't stomach thinking about the presidential nominees for 2016. But the resounding majority of readers are ready for Hillary Clinton to be at the top of the ticket, with either San Antonio mayor Julián Castro, Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Newark, N.J., mayor Cory Booker, or New York governor Andrew Cuomo as her running mate. It's been rumored that Clinton has been eyeing full retirement and grandmotherhood, but something tells us that "Texts From Hillary" isn't the last we'll see of her. Each of Clinton's prospective runnning mates, as suggested by Advocate readers, were also named to run for president. A few of you — maybe some rising politicos or people who believe the presidency should be fillable by any American — wrote in themselves. And many responded that anyone LGBT or LGBT-friendly would do the trick. (See the full list of Advocate readers' top 10 picks for 2016 presidential candidates).
Among our moderate and conservative voters, many identified Republican favorites Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Ron Paul as 2016 presidential candidates. Some even said Romney should throw his hat into the ring yet again, but he's actually already ruled out a third run in conversations with donors post-election.
In one oddball note of no scientific weight, Ron Paul and RuPaul each earned the same number of entries from readers. And LGBT voters favored RuPaul, Anderson Cooper, and Rachel Maddow, each with about a seven votes, over actual Peace and Freedom Party candidate Roseanne Barr.