In a stunning development from Tuesday's election, George W. Bush did not lose much support from gay Americans--despite his hard right turn during this election year, his vocal support for the antigay Federal Marriage Amendment, and Republicans' successful passage of anti-gay marriage ballot amendments in 11 states.
The president received between 21% and 23% of the GLBT vote, about same percentage he received in the 2000 election, according to data from CNN and The Washington Post. Challenger John Kerry received a slightly higher percentage of votes from gay Americans than Al Gore did four years ago, according to the numbers--77% versus the 70% that were cast for Gore in 2000. As in the previous race, about 4% of voters identified as GLBT. Kerry picked up more votes from those who voted for independent Ralph Nader in 2000.
"I think that the difference for many gay voters was the war on terrorism," said Patrick Guerriero, executive director of the gay political group Log Cabin Republicans. "They went to the ballot box and voted on broader issues." Guerriero said that a year and a half ago--before the Federal Marriage Amendment became a cultural lightning rod--he estimated that upwards of 40% of gay voters would have picked Bush.
The strongest support of the president from GLBT voters came from those living in the South and the rural Midwest. For example, in the Northeast, only about 8% of gay and lesbian voters picked Bush, while that figure soared to about 30% in the South.
For many gay rights groups, the data are proof that Bush senior political adviser Karl Rove's plan to energize antigay Christian voters with the president's vocal opposition to same-sex marriage worked. Republican strategists had long estimated that 4 million evangelical Christians did not vote in 2000. Perhaps coincidentally, the president's margin of victory in the popular vote was approximately 4 million votes.
On the other side of the aisle, gay and lesbian Kerry voters failed to energize their families and friends or to convince young people to support their cause. Indeed, the Kerry camp clearly failed to win over any significant number of gay and lesbian voters who had previously supported Bush.
For the overall electorate, same-sex marriage was evidently a defining issue. Moral values--heavily emphasized by the president--edged out terrorism and the economy as the top issue in many areas of the country. Three fourths of white voters who described themselves as born-again Christians or evangelicals supported Bush. Those white evangelicals--a crucial voting bloc for the president--represented about a fifth of all voters. Their top issue was moral values.
Kerry was the overwhelming favorite of black voters and had a big lead among Hispanics, though Bush improved his performance with that key group. Kerry had the lead among women, another core group of Democratic supporters.
Young voters supported Kerry over Bush by about 10 percentage points, but the expected surge in their participation this year was not evident. Just under 10% of voters were between ages 18 and 24, about the same share of the electorate as in 2000. But four years ago they were evenly split between Bush and Gore.
Besides in-person interviews Tuesday, this survey, conducted by the Associated Press, included 500 absentee or early voters interviewed by telephone during the past week. The margin of sampling error for the entire group was plus or minus one percentage point.