We’re entering the final throes of a national election enthusing few.
Dominated by dramatic campaign surprises, there are likely more to come. In this topsy-turvy unconventional election, one such possibility stands stark.
Win or lose, Hillary Clinton may garner the lowest share of LGBT votes in modern history.
Democrats appear keenly aware of this potential outcome. In an interview on the closing night of the Democratic convention, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker expressed alarm at indications of a lower level of support for Clinton among gays than is typical for a Democratic nominee. Booker, who had been a leading vice-presidential contender, characterized the lack of robust enthusiasm for Clinton among LGBT voters and a perceived rise in support for Donald Trump as “terrifying.”
According to exit polls by Gallup, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and other survey firms, one-in-four-or-more LGBT voters have for two decades consistently cast ballots for Republican nominees, while one-third supported GOP Senate and House candidates in the most recent mid-term election.
Although polling is sporadic and limited due the tiny electoral cohort LGBT voters comprise, Trump has polled among gay voters at levels matching Romney in 2012 and McCain in 2008.
Although this election is notable for having become a vomit-inducing roller-coaster ride, Trump has polled near or at this standard historical level among LGBT voters in recent months, particularly in the wake of the attack at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Clinton’s support, however, has registered significantly below previous Democratic candidates. In Reuters/Ipsos surveys, it dropped below 60 percent throughout July.
Similar to all Americans, one-quarter of LGBT voters indicate they don’t support either major party nominee. The high degree of dissatisfaction with both of these notorious grifters has the net effect of lowering Clinton’s tally of LGBT votes.
An astounding 41 percent of Americans have recently said they are having difficulty choosing between Clinton and Trump because they believe neither would make a good president. LGBT voters are undoubtedly among them.
When given the option, 13 percent told a polling firm aligned with Democrats they’d prefer a giant meteor hitting earth than being forced to chose either Clinton or Trump. The disaffected among those under 30 represents a plurality. With the largest bloc of voters now self-identifying as independents, more than a quarter of the unaffiliated would chose annihilation.
Although huge super-majorities consider Clinton untrustworthy and dishonest, and fully two-thirds say the country is headed in the wrong direction, the renegade yet equally distrusted Trump has managed to make an establishment-aligned career politician the more sympathetic candidate despite voters otherwise clamoring for change.
The legalization of same-sex marriage and the resulting or inevitable civil protections that conveys, alongside other equality victories, portends LGBT voters evolving to a less predictable single-issue voting bloc. As cultural integration broadens, LGBT voting patterns are expected to gradually transform over mainstream issues.
It may be that Trump will do no better and may do worse among LGBT voters than is common for Republican presidential candidates. Nothing is certain in this certainly weird election and Trump continuing to exhibit erratic campaign behavior could be his demise.
In the end, though, whether Trump under or over performs among LGBT voters may have little effect on the vote share Clinton wins.
If LGBT voters in the vast majority of pre-determined “blue” and “red” states cast their ballot for a minor party candidate knowing it would not affect the outcome, gay vote shares for both Clinton and Trump would diminish. Voters in New York, for example, view Clinton with more disdain than any statewide Democratic candidate in more than a century.
With both candidates languishing in the gutter on favorability, the prospect of lessened LGBT balloting for them, and especially Clinton, looms large.
Whether 2016 represents the advent or the delay of LGBT realignment borne of assimilation, and whether Clinton’s unpopularity suppresses her LGBT vote share, may be the biggest takeaways for the gay community.