67% of Americans would support a gay or lesbian presidential candidate

According to a new Gallup poll, only 32% of Americans would be against supporting a gay or lesbian presidential candidate and 67% would be in support. As Think Progress mentions this a tremendous shift in mindset from say, 1978, when approximately 74% of the American public wouldn’t have supported a gay or lesbian political candidate.

What this brings up for me however is, why, despite what appears to be majority public support for gay lifestyles, has it been so hard to pass legislation in support of gay marriage? Also, this percentage would be skewed if we were to include gender non-conforming or transgender people, since I’m sure part of what has caused the change in mindset is the increased visibility of gay people on television, particularly gay men, particularly gay men that feed into a very specific and acceptable vision of what “gay” should be.

The poll wasn’t specifically about mindsets around sexuality, but all types of identity including religion. The Gallup poll looked at whether Americans would support a Mormon presidential candidate or not, a salient question in light of Romney’s candidacy and now that of Utah Gov. John Huntsman. Twenty-two percent of Americans have said they will not vote for Mormon candidate, a number that hasn’t really changed since 1967.

One would hope that part of what has created the shift in whether or not the voting public would support a gay candidate as opposed to a Mormon candidate or a Christian or Jewish is that the role of religion has decreased in how we view politicians. But we would be wrong. Turns out the hierarchy of who votes for who, starts with 94% “would vote for a black candidate” at the top, followed by women, Catholics, Baptists and so on and so forth, and ends with atheists–the people least likely to get voted for with 49% support. This might indirectly explain the discrepancy between supporting a gay or lesbian politician, but not supporting gay marriage.

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  • http://valeriirene.wordpress.com Valeri Irene

    I think the discrepancy between public opinion and successful legislation is actually who is voting for the legislation. Representatives of the public vote, not the people who took part in the poll, and these representatives do not represent simply represent themselves, nor do they directly represent each of their constituents equally. A person in the position of voting for many more people must represent an idea, a personality, a set of beliefs. This is how we know if we should vote for them or not, but it does not allow us to actually know anything about the person behind the persona. Not that all politicians are acting and that they don’t agree with what they “stand for,” but political strategy moves forward at the loss of personal preference.

    Anyway, what I’m saying is that while most of the people who took part in the poll may have been willing to support a gay or lesbian candidate for President, those voting for them may not be so willing. Politicians have to play a sort of middle ground of their constituents or risk not being elected again.

    Valeri Irene

  • http://cabaretic.blogspot.com nazza

    The idea that Christianity is some unified force for repression and brainwashing is a myth. Every denomination or group has its own standard, and even within the same group, some believers are conservative and some are liberal. If anything, it’s proof of how fragmented we really are.

    Race as a construct requires nothing more than a single glance at the color of someone’s skin. Religion is not nearly so immediate, even though this definition of race is incredibly oversimplified.

    • http://feministing.com/members/critter/ Critter

      You can think that Christianity is a force for repression and brainwashing while recognizing that it is hardly unified. Hell…all religions are forces for repression and brainwashing…it doesn’t mean they’re unified or even in fundamental agreement with each other.

  • davenj

    There’s also the Bradley Effect. Polls where one person is talking to another person are different than conversations occurring in insular groups, or the total privacy of a voting booth. If we’re to believe this poll then only 6% of people wouldn’t support a female candidate because of her gender, but consider the obstacles thrown in the path of Hillary Clinton in the run-up to the ’08 election. Quite simply, these polls often indicate what is socially acceptable to say, not how people will vote. It is less socially acceptable today to say one would not vote for a female, an African American, or a gay or lesbian candidate, but these things are obviously still relevant.

    • http://feministing.com/members/janet/ janet

      I agree. It’s less socially acceptable to out-right say one would not vote for a ______. So if a candidate came up for election who was _____, I doubt many people would outright say, “I won’t vote for this person because they’re ________.” After all, most of the anti-Obama-ists didn’t have an issue with Obama because of his race, oh no! They just didn’t believe he was American, that’s all! Similarly, if Hillary Clinton had been up for election instead, I doubt most people would say, “I won’t vote for a woman!” They’d probably say, “I won’t vote for Hillary Clinton because she’s just not assertive enough. Or she’s too bitchy and assertive.” If it had been a woman with a young family, you’d hear, “She won’t be able to take care of her children with all the work that comes with being president. I can’t respect that.” Or one of a hundred other claims leveled at women but not generally at men. I find this poll interesting, but it’s definitely simplifying things.

  • http://feministing.com/members/calawyer/ CAlawyer

    Getting members of the legislature to support same-sex marriage legislation (or any other legislation) has to do not just with the absolute numbers of supporters and opponents, but with how many people care and how well-funded they are. If opponents are more likely to change their vote/donate money/lobby/support primary challengers, then they’ll have support that’s disproportionate to their absolute numbers. This is where the power of “special interests” comes from.

    Also, the legislative system in the United States contains a huge number of veto points. Legislation has to get through various committees, then it has to pass a vote in both houses of the legislature, then it has to be signed by the Governor/President (vetoes can be overridden, but this is all but impossible). If opponents can block a bill in any of those places, it doesn’t pass. The result is that a statistical minority has a lot of power to block legislation it doesn’t want if they feel strongly enough about the issue and are well-funded enough.