What the Human Rights Campaign terms “Equality Voters” made the difference in holding back the expected “red wave” in this month’s midterm election, according to a new survey by HRC and polling firm GQR.
“The 2022 election defied pre-election predictions of a massive red wave in no small measure because Equality Voters pushed back against extremism and voted to protect commonly held values and our democracy,” says a memo released by HRC and GQR. “Across the country, election deniers and right-wing social warriors lost winnable elections because they advocated views that are out-of-touch with average voters, particularly the huge number of Equality Voters who made the critical difference up and down the ballot.”
Equality Voters are those who support LGBTQ+ equality, and HRC counts 62 million of them — 38 percent of the 2022 electorate. They “tend to be younger and more racially diverse than the electorate as a whole,” HRC says.
In U.S. House races, 81 percent of Equality Voters chose the Democratic candidate, according to the poll. They supported Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate and governor in similar numbers. The 81 percent matches the level of support Equality Voters gave Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential race and nearly matches the level of support Black voters delivered this cycle (87 percent).
Among self-identified LGBTQ+ voters, who made up a midterm record 7 percent of the 2022 electorate, 80 percent backed U.S. House Democrats, and similar percentages voted for Democratic U.S. Senate and gubernatorial candidates.
The survey found that among voters as a whole, animus toward transgender people didn’t motivate many people to the polls. When respondents were asked what specific issues led them to vote this year, 52 percent said inflation, and 29 percent said abortion, putting those issues first and second on this list. Less than 5 percent identified gender-affirming care for trans youth or trans participation in sports as issues as motivating them to vote, putting those issues last.
“This confirms extensive research prior to the election that found anti-transgender attacks were effective in riling up extreme members of the conservative base, which is why the attacks were so prominent in paid media during Republican primaries,” the memo states. “While the attacks were ineffective with the general electorate, they still caused harm, including increasing stigma, discrimination, and violence against the transgender community.”
The survey also found that 61 percent of respondents supported Congress passing a law to protect the federal right to same-sex marriage. This included 67 percent of independent voters, 54 percent of voters over age 50, 62 percent of non-college women, and 81 percent of Equality Voters.
“Republicans lost because they nominated extreme candidates, conspiracy theorists, and far-right radicals who advocated extreme positions, including attacks on an LGBTQ+ community that grows more politically powerful every election cycle,” HRC Interim President Joni Madison said in a press release. “As Sen. Mitch McConnell said earlier this week, Republicans’ negativity and excessive attacks were rejected by independent and moderate Republican voters. They didn’t generate the landslide they were betting on, thanks to the historic turnout of pro-equality, pro-democracy, and pro-choice voters who showed up to the polls in record numbers to reject extremism and deliver a series of victories for pro-equality candidates, including historic victories for LGBTQ+ candidates, women, and candidates of color.”