It’s a common assumption – among Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals – that gay voters all vote for Democrats.
In 2012, Barack Obama, according to exit polls, received three-fourths of the gay vote. But gay voters aren’t Democrats simply – in a Gallup study though a higher percentage of gays (44%) were Democrats than were heterosexual voters (32%), and a lower percentage were Republicans (13% versus 30%), they were also more likely to be independents (43% to 39%), albeit independents who were more likely to vote Democrat. Gallup thinks 65% of gays usually vote Democratic, slightly less than voted for Obama in 2012.
Most Republican candidates seem to look at gays as a group its safest to just not address, given these figures. While there may be something salutary about not viewing gays as a tribe, but instead as individuals, a number of Republicans seem to be willing to do outreach to groups whose non-Democratic vote is much lower than the gay’s 35%. Senator Rand Paul has spoken at a number of historically black colleges, and Dr. Ben Carson ran rap music campaign ads on urban radio. African Americans vote almost 90% for Democrats, not the 65% that gays do.
Democrats spend a huge amount of money to get that 65-75% of the gay vote. Just to take the largest gay political groups that work heavily on elections instead of legal cases, the Human Rights Campaign Fund (which laughably claims to be bi-partisan – not non-partisan or multi-partisan – because it usually has one or two RINO employees or board members) has a budget of $40 million, and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund (and its affiliated Institute), also allegedly bi-partisan (it has donated a minimal amount of money to gay Republican candidates), has an annual budget of around $3 million. Additionally the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, essentially a socialist group that does not purport to be bi-partisan, has an annual budget of just under $8 million. Additionally there are many other political entities that focus on herding the gay vote, like Equality Matters, that are part of some larger group (Equality Matters is a project of the George Soros funded Media Matters, the latter of which has a $14 milllion annual budget). There are also much smaller groups, like the National Center for Transgender Equality (with a budget of $1 million), that aren’t known primarily for campaigning for candidates and parties, but that don’t seem likely to be supportive of non-Democrats. Additionally, the Democratic National Committee actually has a Gay and Lesbian Interest Section as a formal group within the Democratic Party. Democrat-oriented gay groups easily spend over $50 million annually, not mainly on direct contributions to Democratic candidates, but on lobbying, media guidance, AND donations both monetary and in kind, to convince gay voters to support Democrats, or to be afraid of Republicans. As with heterosexual voters and the mainstream media, this doesn’t even include the value of earned media, which is even more biased towards Democrats when it comes to gay media than is the mainstream media is for voters in general. (Aside from a few websites, there are no gay media that are not predominately Democratic.)
In the most recent presidential election, just under 130 million Americans voted. Though estimates of the percentage of gays in the population are usually around 2%, they are thought to be closer to 5% of voters. Even at that higher number there were basically 6 and a half million gay voters in 2012, for whom the gay Democratic groups spent over $50 million, or around $9 per voter – in addition to the general election spending of other partisan groups, Democrat, Republican, Green, Libertarian, etc. – spent on every voter regardless of orientation.
And what was spent by the other parties? Though it has local chapters as well, the national office of Log Cabin Republicans has an annual budget of $220,000, basically enough for an Executive Director and an office space, and perhaps one staffer or intern; though when you include its sister, non-electoral arm, the Liberty Education Forum (they share the same executive director) the total is closer to $500,000. The more conservative gay group GOProud, now defunct, spent around $500,000 at its high point in 2012. A related group with a much larger budget is the American Unity PAC, a Republican PAC that supports Republican candidates who support gay marriage, which raised just under $3 million in 2012 and about $6 million in 2014, with seed money from Paul Singer and other libertarian Republican hedge fund manager and investment banker types. Though the effect of American Unity PAC may have been to shift the Republicans elected to a slightly more gay friendly profile, it’s really more a case of gay marriage supporting heterosexual Republicans raising money to support gay marriage supporting heterosexual Republican candidates. And since gay marriage is now a settled issue, American Unity PAC will likely not be involved in the 2016 election.
So if one just compares the budgets of Log Cabin Republicans to that of the massive, multi-million dollar Democratic gay groups, Democrats outspend Republicans by a factor of 100 to 1 on targeted outreach to gay voters. (Even if you add in American Unity PAC, Democrats outspend Republicans by 10 to 1 on targeted outreach.)
But Democrats only get 2 to 3 times as much of the gay vote as Republicans (and others, like Libertarians and Greens, who may be getting a disproportionately high share of gay votes as well, especially from the 43% of the gays who call themselves independents). While spending 100 times as much.
Perhaps gay voters aren’t innately such liberal Democrats after all.
Republicans – and the broader group of people who simply don’t want to see the Democrats in power – might then consider a strategy of attempting to reach gay voters, whom they’ve basically ignored.
Actually appealing to gays by supporting gay marriage and other forms of legal equality in adoption etc. would be one approach, but there are others for people not ready to go there.
Gay people tend to gravitate to urban areas governed by Democrats, partly so they can find each other and partly because liberal Democrats do sometimes eventually get around to enacting legal reforms gay voters want (usually when they begin to lose campaign donations for talking the talk without walking the walk). As such, they experience all the costs of living under Democratic misrule as do other urban groups. Four broad areas: crime, schools, economic opportunity, foreign policy.
Crime – Many gay people live in cities with gun control, and perusing the gay press in places like Washington, D.C. or Baltimore reveal not just heterosexuals being stabbed on public transportation by people demanding cameras or leather jackets, but gay people in gentrifying neighborhoods and transgender people in less gentrified neighborhoods being assaulted, killed, hospitalized. Because their assailants know they do not have a weapon to defend themselves. Candidates should address anti-gay hate crimes as a reason for ending gun control.
Schools – As Democratic LGTB activists themselves continually complain, gay kids and “gender nonconforming” kids are routinely bullied on playgrounds around the country. At one presentation on this problem I asked the gay activist if his group compiled statistics on bullying by school type – public, independent, parochial etc. He admitted they do not. I suspect most bullying happens at public schools, and that school choice is the best solution. Very few parents, even ones deeply opposed to homosexuality and in complete denial about their own child’s orientation, would send their child to a school where she or he came home black and blue and suicidal. School choice would allow progressive yuppies to send their kids to schools that celebrate LGBT history, gays to send their kids to schools where gay parents are not an oddity, traditional religious folks to send their kids to schools that conform to their values, and parents of gay kids who don’t want to think about these issues to find a sporty all girl’s school for their daughter or an artsy school for their son where the kid doesn’t come home with a black eye. Candidates should point out how school choice improves education, and also makes for more peace and tolerance by allowing people to freely associate with whom they choose.
Economic opportunity – Like many other striving minority groups, from Jews, to ethnic Chinese outside of China, to Parsis, many gay people who feel discriminated against in large bureaucracies or corporations start their own businesses. It’s very common for a high percentage of urban realtors, mortgage brokers, property developers, restaurateurs to be gay – and for them to hire gay employees. It’s also the case that in Democratic cities they face extra layers of regulation, both because the city has additional regulations on top of county and state regulations, and because the city politicians are Democrats who believe more regulation is always good. One famous gay restaurant developer in D.C., Eric Hirschfeld, spoke before the city council and to the press about how he could only start his popular gay oriented (“Cheers for queers”) Duplex Diner by ignoring the thicket of laws and regulations. Candidates should point out how regulation hurts gay, women, African American, etc. entrepreneurs.
Foreign policy – Under 8 years of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s and President Barack Obama’s Democratic foreign policy, jihadists who hate gays and execute them in the countries they control, reportedly even tracking them down on social media, have expanded into more and more countries, and have killed a gay American Ambassador. Another Islamic theocracy, Iran, forces gays to undergo transsexual surgery as a “cure” under its interpretation of Islam, and was rewarded by the current Democratic administration with $150 billion in frozen bank funds and the ability to create nuclear weapons. Whether your approach is to arm the Kurds, create a no fly zone, or the Senator Rand Paul approach of ending subsidies to and gifts of arms to anti-American regimes, pointing out that Democrats have expanded the reach of terrorists who kill gays, and that you would reverse that, seems a wise thing to mention.
History – Probably not as big a vote getter, but Harvey Milk started his career as a Goldwater Republican (defending small gay owned businesses against discrimination in licensing), Barry Goldwater himself was pro-gay rights, “And the Band Played on” author Randy Shilts was a college conservatarian, and libertarian Republican lawyer Ted Olson was the chief architect of marriage equality.
Some Republicans may find it difficult to incorporate gay outreach into their campaigns even with these suggestions. That’s not the only way to try to reduce the Democrats unearned 65% share of that vote though. One could also weaponize third party candidates, something that happened in the last election cycle, where in a handful of races, Democrats or the GOP paid for advertising for a Libertarian or other candidate whose views were thought to ensure they would pull votes away from their competitor. In North Carolina for example, Libertarian Senatorial candidate Sean Haugh’s pro-pot, anti-war views were thought to pull mainly from Democrat Kay Hagen.
By failing to invest anything in targeting gay voters, either to get them to vote for GOP candidates, or to get them to vote for Greens and Libertarians instead of Democratic candidates, the GOP seems to be leaving votes on the table. In some swing states like Ohio or Virginia, urban gay votes might actually tip elections. It’s surprising a Koch, or Singer, or Thiel hasn’t funded some type of counterweight PAC for the 2016 election cycle to reach the gay voter.