September 18, 2020 at 8:32 am EDT | by Chris Johnson
Survey finding 45 percent of gay men back Trump is ‘clickbaity, sloppy journalism’
A flawed Hornet app study found 45 percent of gay men back Trump. (Screen capture via YouTube)

A survey finding 45 percent of gay-identified men are planning to vote for President Trump in the 2020 election, published this week by the gay dating app Hornet, sparked interest on social media and Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News, but falls short of providing an accurate picture of the LGBTQ electorate, experts in online polling told the Washington Blade.

Jason Turcotte, an associate professor of communication at Cal Poly Pomona, said via email the survey produced “an interesting finding,” but at the same time is “unlikely to be representative of the broader LGBTQ community.”

“To hold up this poll as evidence that the LGBTQ community is somewhat split on its support for the presidential candidates is like someone saying the users of Farmers Only represent the ideological spectrum of all farmers or that Christian Mingle users represent the ideological spectrum of all Christians,” Turcotte said. “To tout a Hornet poll as evidence of LGBTQ support for Trump is clickbaity, sloppy journalism.”

According to results of the survey, made public Tuesday and highlighted in a Newsweek story, American users of the gay media app Hornet — which allows users to “sting” potential matches to signal interest in engagement — were split in the candidates they’re backing in the 2020 election.

Of the 1,200 American men surveyed in a sample of 10,000 Hornet users worldwide, 51 percent pledged support for Joe Biden in the upcoming election, while 45 percent acknowledged they are gay men for Trump, according to a Hornet blog post. Hornet doesn’t offer demographic information on the men.

Based on the larger sample of 10,000 Hornet users worldwide, support for Trump among gay people is lower: Only 34 percent of gay men support Donald Trump, while 66 percent support Democratic nominee Biden.

Despite questions surrounding the survey, the results were cited on social media as evidence the LGBTQ community is veering away from its long support of the Democratic Party by backing Trump. The Log Cabin Republicans media project Outspoken tweeted out the survey Tuesday, as did Brandon Straka, who’s gay and a founder of the Walk Away movement.

The survey was also the subject of a Fox News segment Wednesday night, when host Tucker Carlson featured the Hornet results — as well as polls showing Trump is doing well with Latinos. As an expert to discuss the results, Carlson brought on Washington Examiner columnist Eddie Scarry, author of “Privileged Victims” and a gay conservative.

“If we’re just talking about gays, we’re looking at cities run by Democrats, liberal states, Democratic mayors, Democratic governors, and we’re seeing them go up in flames,” Scarry said. “Gay people are kind of inherently afraid of violence for reasons that should be obvious, so I think seeing that has scared a lot of people looking for someone to — they’re looking for protection from somebody. We’ve seen Joe Biden for the last two or three months kind of excuse if not outright encourage what’s been going on.”

Scarry went on to say the surprising number of American male Hornet users who back Trump is consistent with a new wave of gay staffers who work for Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill coming out.

“The staff is very gay on both sides, but the Republican staff is actually gayer than the Democratic side,” Scarry said. “And the thing is, the Republican side, they’re very, very discreet about the fact they’re Republicans. So you have these Republicans who finally are coming out and saying, ‘You know what? I’m tired of this. I’m tired of seeing what’s going on around the country. And you know what? Trump is the one who at least says, “We’ve had enough of this, too.”’”

But those conclusions weren’t the same reached by the experts, who took issue with the vagaries of the Hornet survey, including lack of information on certain demographics, such as age and region.

Turcotte said that demographic information would be crucial in ascertaining the accuracy of the Hornet survey results, as well as fine-tuning the results among different categories of men.

“Depending on where Hornet users reside, the results could be quite skewed,” Turcotte said. “The app could also be less popular among younger voters, which tend to lean liberal. It’s impossible to evaluate the credibility of a poll that lacks transparency about its sample size and methodology.”

Turcotte also took issue with the Hornet survey allowing respondents to answer anonymously, which he said could lead to false results.

“The anonymity factor of apps also threatens the credibility of such a poll,” Turcotte said. “Users of apps can misrepresent their age or identities. Apps that allow for a cloak of anonymity could appeal more to conservative-leaning users who prefer to occupy anonymous spaces because of work, home or community environments that are less accepting of the LGBTQ community.”

For its part, Hornet is pushing back against the media reporting of its survey as an accurate snapshot of gay people.

Stephan Horbelt, executive editor of Hornet, emphasized in response that the findings on gay men are based on a self-selecting, voluntary survey, as opposed to a scientific poll.

“Though I’m wholly unable to control how other outlets refer to it,” Horbelt said, “I’ve seen some pretty broad mischaracterizations of the data by other outlets on social media. Hornet is not Quinnipiac, nor has it ever ascribed that level of weight to our survey results.”

Horbelt said information on location, age, or race of respondents wasn’t gathered because the survey was voluntary, adding the higher than expected support for Trump “was quite the unfortunate surprise, and unsurprisingly that’s what has been turned into a story here.”

“As with any informal survey like this, the only thing that can truly be extrapolated from Hornet’s data is that 45 percent of those American gay men who took the survey expressed support for Donald Trump,” Horbelt said. “I’ve seen outlets attempt to extrapolate voter prediction on behalf of the greater LGBTQ community, which can’t and should not be done. (Ours was a poll of gay, bi and trans men, not the larger queer community.)”

Horbelt concluded the key takeaway from what Hornet found is “there are indeed gay men who unfortunately and ignorantly support Donald Trump, head of the most anti-LGBTQ administration in modern history, and it’s likely they do so at much higher rates than we previously believed. “

“Without acknowledging that fact, how can we course-correct? It’s clear that we — the larger LGBTQ community — have a lot of work to do,” Horbelt said.

Indeed, the Hornet survey results are inconsistent with other polls showing a greater percentage of LGBTQ people support Biden, including LGBTQ Republicans. According to a Morning Consult poll in June, almost a quarter of LGBTQ Republicans have a favorable opinion of Joe Biden and 12 percent said they’d vote for him. That’s five points more likely than straight Republican to say they’ll vote for Biden, and were eight points more likely to say they’ll vote for Trump.

Based on 2016 exit polls, LGBTQ people in a lop-sided manner backed Hillary Clinton over Trump. A total of 78 percent backed the Democratic candidate, compared to the 14 percent of the vote won by Trump. Trump got a lower percentage than either Mitt Romney, who 22 percent of the LGBTQ vote in 2012, or John McCain, who got 27 percent of the LGBTQ vote in 2008.

Brian Schaffner, a political scientist at Tufts University, cited numerous issues with the Hornet survey — including the fact it sampled only users of the Hornet app and didn’t appear to take into account some would be more likely to respond than others — but also said the results are inconsistent with his own findings.

“For context, in November 2019, the survey I co-direct (the Cooperative Congressional Election Study) asked about 2020 vote choice,” Schaffner said. “The survey is very large, so we actually had 1,074 LGBTQ men in our sample. Among that group, just 26 percent were planning on voting for Trump while 66 percent said they were going to vote for the Democratic nominee. That’s basically the exact same breakdown as we saw in 2016 (67 percent Clinton and 26 percent Trump). So I’d be shocked to find any significant change in support among that group now.”

All in all, the views of the LGBTQ community as a sexual minority making up an estimated 5 percent of the population would be difficult to ascertain — even for the most scientific of polls.

Turcotte, however, said the Hornet survey doesn’t come close to taking an accurate poll of the LGBTQ community by any means.

“Do I believe that voting habits of underrepresented groups are more nuanced than most voters and campaigns assume?” Turcotte said. “Absolutely. But do I think the Hornet poll accurately captures that nuance for the LGBTQ community? Absolutely not.”

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

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