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Poll on Mayor Pete: Only Half of Americans Ready for Gay President

Pete Buttigieg

While Pete Buttigieg’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination has made history and drawn substantial support, a new poll indicates that only half the country is ready for a gay president.

In a Politico/Morning Consult poll of registered voters released Wednesday, “50 percent of respondents said they were either definitely or probably ready to have a commander in chief who is openly gay, compared with 37 percent who said they were either definitely or probably not ready,” Politico reports.

Respondents thought fewer of their fellow Americans were ready, however. Forty percent replied that the nation as a whole was ready, while 45 percent said it was not. When asked if their neighbors were ready for a gay president, only about one-quarter of respondents said yes, and 46 percent said definitely or probably not.

Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., is the first out gay candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination (Fred Karger made a run for the Republican nomination in 2012). Buttigieg is also the first out presidential candidate to appear in a national debate. He has recently moved up in polls in Iowa, whose February 3 caucus will be the first vote in the nation on the Democratic contenders.

But the fact that he’s gay “may be an issue for some voters as he remains in contention for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination,” Tyler Sinclair, Morning Consult’s vice president, told Politico. “Notably, 58 percent of Republicans, 32 percent of independents, and 22 percent of Democrats say they aren’t ready for a gay or lesbian president. The comparative figures not ready for a female president are 36 percent of Republicans, 15 percent of independents, and 8 percent of Democrats.”

The poll was conducted from last Friday through Monday, surveying 1,997 registered voters. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Buttigieg’s campaign today sent out an email likening his campaign to that of another trailblazer, Barack Obama. “My name is Larry Grisolano and I’m a senior messaging advisor for Pete — just like I was for the then-Senator Barack Obama in 2007,” the message begins. “Pete’s campaign this year is rekindling the same excitement I felt at this time in 2007.”

It goes on to note that when Obama gave an inspiring speech at a major Democratic event in Iowa that year, “it was the moment that changed everything for the Obama campaign and, ultimately, for the country,” which was deeply polarized then, as it is now. Buttigieg is scheduled to speak at the same event, the Liberty and Justice Celebration, this Friday, and the email predicts the outcome will be the same for him.

However, when Obama was running for his first term, the polls were more encouraging about the possibility of a Black president than they are for a gay president now. For instance, a CNN/Essence Magazine/Opinion Research Corp. poll released in April 2008 found 76 percent of respondents saying the nation was ready for a Black president. Some factors were different, though; Obama had already made a strong showing in early primaries, and he had only one rival for the nomination then, Hillary Clinton, with John Edwards having suspended his campaign a few months earlier. In the same poll, 63 percent said the nation was ready for a woman president.

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