November 7, 2012 at 12:52 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Exit poll: Gay voters made up 5 percent of 2012 electorate

An exit poll published the day after the election found 5 percent of voters self-identified as gay, lesbian and bisexual and more than three-quarters of them cast their ballots for President Obama.

The poll, which was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research on behalf of a consortium of national media outlets, found gay voters made up 5 percent of the electorate and 77 percent of them voted for Obama while 23 percent voted for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. The pollster didn’t ask voters if they identify as transgender.

Compared to data from previous elections, the poll also found more voters self-identified as LGBT than in previous elections. In previous years, the percentage was either 3 or 4 percent and hadn’t before reached 5 percent.

Additionally, the poll found more gay voters backed Obama in 2012 than did in 2008 when he was running against then-Republican nominee John McCain. At the time, 70 percent of gay voters backed Obama while 27 percent backed McCain.

Exit polls reveal 5 percent of the electorate identified as LGBT (Blade screenshot by Chris Johnson)

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement lauding the election night results that the growth in the number of voters who self-identify as LGB shows they have significant political power.

“Our community has flexed our political muscle with exit polls showing an increase from 4 percent of the vote in 2008 to 5 percent this year,” Griffin said. “And the president gained many more supporters among lesbian, gay and bisexual voters – jumping seven points to garner 77 percent of our vote.

The poll also shows a notable increase in the percentage of self-identified gay voters who voted Democratic in 2012 compared to 2010, when support for Republicans was the highest ever recorded. At that time, 69 percent of gay voters cast their ballots for Democrats, while 31 percent cast their ballots for Republicans. In November 2010, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” wasn’t yet repealed, nor had Obama voiced support for same-sex marriage.

Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director of GOProud, attributed the greater support for McCain among gay voters to the moderate positions the candidate took on LGBT issues compared to Romney. His organization endorsed Romney. Unlike Romney, McCain didn’t support a U.S. constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

“The fact that Mitt Romney won less of the gay vote than John McCain shows that McCain held positions on issues important to gay voters that were more acceptable to them than the positions held by Romney,” LaSalvia said.

Gary Gates, who’s gay and a specialist on gay demographics at the University of California’s Williams Institute, noted the results are consistent with previous poll results, but didn’t have enough information to comment further.

“In general, the exit polls are consistent with past overwhelming LGBT support for Democratic presidential candidates,” Gates said. “As I don’t know what the margin of error is on the LGBT sample, it’s hard to really say how meaningful the difference is between the McCain vote and Romney’s.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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