The gay and lesbian vote in America : the political attitudes and voting behavior of a no-longer-invisible minority

Hertzog, Mark Wm., Woodrow Wilson Department of Government and Foreign Affairs, University of Virginia
Finkel, Steven, Department of Politics, University of Virginia
McClain, Paula, Department of Politics, University of Virginia
Mayes, Bernard, Department of English, University of Virginia

In this first-ever detailed study of self-identified lesbians and gay men as a factor in U.S. electoral politics, 1.1 percent of respondents to the 1990 national exit polls (n = 19,888) identified themselves as being gay or lesbian. This group was disproportionately male, young, well-educated, urban and secular; more than half held professional or managerial jobs. Three in seven resided in the West; disproportionately few lived in the Midwest.

Both gay men and lesbians were distinctively liberal. In addition, three lesbians in five considered themselves "strong feminists." Even after controlling for this augmented liberalism and feminism, gay and lesbian self-identifiers remained significantly more liberal on domestic social issues, although not on economic, defense or foreign policy issues, than were the rest of the population, indicating that self-identification as gay or lesbian per se may have an independent liberalizing effect on "cultural" issues.

This liberalism did not automatically translate into support for the Democrats. Huge majorities of gay and lesbian identifiers voted for candidates in high salience contests who were more "pro-gay," regardless of party. About one in four lesbian or gay voters generally supported Republican candidates who were not overtly anti-gay. About one-sixth of self-identifiers, mostly lesbian feminists, voted for independent or third-party candidates for the House of Representatives.

Gay or lesbian self-identification retained significant independent power to explain voting behavior in high salience elections even after controlling for demographic correlates, party affiliation, incumbency, ideology and feminism.

In a state legislative primary with a strong lesbian candidate in a district with a large gay population, most self-identifiers cited the desire for gay representation as more important than substantive issue concerns, and a majority cited the endorsements of non-gay periodicals and organizations as important in their decision.

Because of the relative youth of the gay samples, with persons born after 1960 nearly 10 times as likely to self-identify as persons born before 1941, the number of self-identified gay and lesbian voters may double in the next generation, which may make this group of voters numerically as powerful as Jews or Asians.

Note: Abstract extracted from PDF file via OCR.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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