Over the past few weeks, media outlets have pointed out the potential impact of LGBT voters in both swing states and local races in the 2016 election, highlighting the “biggest and most sophisticated get-out-the-vote effort ever” organized by the nation’s largest LGBT advocacy organization, the Human Rights Campaign, and noting that LGBT voters “might help tip the scale red or blue.” Journalists have also focused on the swing state of North Carolina, where anti-LGBT law House Bill 2 (HB 2) has the potential to be a “critical driver” of voter turnout.
Media Outlets Spotlight The Impact Of LGBT Voters In 2016 Election, Especially In Swing States
USA Today: LGBT Rights Organization Undertaking Its “Biggest And Most Sophisticated Get-Out-The-Vote Effort Ever.” USA Today reported on the largest get-out-the-vote effort organized by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) -- the nation’s largest LGBT advocacy organization -- to mobilize “roughly 10 million eligible” LGBT voters and “pro-equality” voters across the nation:
The nation’s largest gay rights advocacy group is undertaking its biggest and most sophisticated get-out-the-vote effort ever with hopes of affecting not only the presidential election but control of the U.S. Senate.
The Human Rights Campaign is focusing on presidential battleground states that also have tight Senate races, plus large enough populations of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender voters to impact the outcome.
The organization has tallied LGBT voters and the math shows they could help put Democrats over the top in North Carolina, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Florida and Nevada. Across the country, there are roughly 10 million eligible LGBT voters, including between 3 and 4 percent of the electorate in each of those states.
“In the key swing states, that is where we have put the bulk of our energy, focus and resources in this election,” [HRC President Chad] Griffin said. “And it’s important not just for this election, but it’s also something we’re building on to grow and expand in two years in the midterms and then in four years in the re-elect.”
Ground zero of the effort is North Carolina, where HRC hopes to capitalize on backlash to that state’s controversial bathroom law to demonstrate that discriminating against LGBT individuals is no longer palatable politically. [USA Today, 10/25/16]
NBC: The LGBT Community “Will Be A Key Group For The Democratic Party” In November. An NBC News and Survey Monkey Weekly Election Tracking Poll from September 5 through September 18 found that 72 percent of LGBT voters support Clinton, while 20 percent back Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Just as in past elections, the LGBT community “will be a key group for the Democratic Party again in November,” according to NBC:
In past elections, LGBT voters have played an important role. According to results from the 2012 NBC News Exit Polls, 5 percent of voters identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual** and 76 percent voted for Barack Obama. Voters who did not identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual were split—49 percent voted for Obama and 49 percent voted for Romney.
The LGBT community has historically supported the Democratic Party, and the tracking poll found that 70 percent of registered LGBT voters were Democrats and Democratic-leaners. More LGBT registered voters identified as Republicans and Republican-leaners (18 percent) than as Independents (13 percent).
The LGBT community was an important group for Obama's re-election four years ago and will be a key group for the Democratic Party again in November. [NBC.com, 9/23/16]
NBC: “In Certain Battlegrounds States, LGBTQ Voters Might Help Tip The Scale Red Or Blue.” In a feature for NBC OUT, postdoctoral research fellow Julie Moreau analyzed why both presidential nominees are reaching out the LGBT voters. Noting that this election has “been marked by a significant amount of attention” to LGBT people and “the issues that affect them,” Moreau argued that “being seen as LGBTQ-friendly is now crucial to the viability of any U.S. presidential candidate”:
This election season has been marked by a significant amount of attention to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and the issues that affect them. From LGBTQ speakers at the conventions to rainbow merchandise, both candidates appear to be scrambling to prove their concern for the community.
While in certain battlegrounds states, LGBTQ voters might help tip the scale red or blue, nationally the LGBTQ population -- about 5 percent of registered voters -- is much smaller than other historically marginalized groups, such as African Americans and Latinos. And despite Trump's insistence that he is the real friend to “the gays,” if history (or recent polls) is any indicator, Clinton has the LGBTQ vote shored up. So, why all the fuss?
In 2012, legal scholar and Columbia Professor Katherine Franke wrote, “States have come to see that their political power, their legitimacy, indeed their standing as global citizens, are bound up with how they recognize and then treat 'their' gay citizens.” Being seen as LGBTQ-friendly is now crucial to the viability of any U.S. presidential candidate, which may go part of the way to explaining why Trump --a cosmopolitan New Yorker -- beat his more socially conservative rivals for the nomination. This does not mean, however, that the candidates' sexuality politics are identical or that their overtures to the LGBTQ community will be the same. [NBC.com, 9/26/16]
Orlando Sentinel: LGBT Voters “Could Be A Deciding Factor” In Tipping Florida. The Orlando Sentinel pointed to LGBT voters’ potential role in determining the presidential race in Florida. The Sentinel highlighted the potential impact of get-out-the-vote efforts in the state after the June massacre at the LGBT nightclub Pulse in Orlando:
The Pulse gunman's attack on a gay nightclub may have inspired a level of political activism that even the fight for marriage equality did not — potentially spurring Central Florida's LGBT community to turn out en masse on Election Day.
Given recent polls that show the presidential race to be a virtual tie in the Sunshine State, some say gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender voters could be a deciding factor.
“You could have people who ordinarily wouldn't turn out, but do in this case because of the Pulse shooting — not just among the LGBT community in general, but especially among the younger demographic, 35 and under, who traditionally don't turn out in great numbers, gay or straight,” said Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at University of Central Florida.
The June 12 shooting, which left 49 people dead and at least 68 wounded, claimed a disproportionate number of victims in their 20s and early 30s. Many were Hispanic — another group that Jewett said may be more likely to vote as a result.
If so, most analysts agree, they'll be far more likely to vote for Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump. [Orlando Sentinel, 10/1/16]
In North Carolina, Anti-LGBT HB 2 May Have Thwarted Governor’s Re-Election Bid
Wash. Post’s Dana Milbank: “One Governor’s Defeat Could Be A Watershed Moment For Gay Rights.” In an October 7 opinion column, The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank pointed out that since North Carolina Republican Gov. Pat McCrory signed HB 2 in March, his favorability rating has dropped dramatically. Milbank also noted that if McCrory loses his re-election bid, it will be the first case of “a prominent official being voted out of office because his anti-gay actions backfired”:
North Carolina’s Republican governor, Pat McCrory, was a good bet for reelection earlier this year. But then he signed HB2 into law in March, eliminating municipal nondiscrimination ordinances and requiring transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender listed on their birth certificates.
Nearly half a century after the Stonewall riots, a defeat of McCrory because of the bathroom bill would be a watershed (or, if you will, a water closet) moment for gay rights. Stigmatizing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans has already lost its potency as a political weapon. But this would be the first case of a prominent official being voted out of office because his anti-gay actions backfired. [The Washington Post, 10/7/16]
NY Times Magazine: “The Costs Of The Backlash [To HB 2] Are Becoming Politically Obvious.” The New York Times Magazine reported on the “politically obvious” costs of HB 2 in a October 7 piece titled “What Happened To North Carolina?” The Times noted that an early October poll found that North Carolina Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Roy Cooper “got the support of 72 percent” of voters who disapprove of HB 2. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has also hit McCrory for his support of HB 2:
The costs of the backlash are becoming politically obvious. Polls consistently find that a majority of North Carolinians believes H.B. 2 has hurt the state’s economy and reputation, even though slight majorities also still oppose letting transgender people use the bathrooms of their choice. In a late August poll from Monmouth University of likely voters, the approval rate for H.B. 2 had fallen to 36 percent. [Roy] Cooper got the support of 72 percent who disapproved of the law. In an early September trip to Charlotte, Hillary Clinton used the opportunity to hit [Gov. Pat] McCrory with the specter of H.B. 2, saying, “Discrimination is not only wrong, it’s bad for business.”
North Carolina is a crucial swing state. Clinton currently leads Trump there by 2.6 points in the RealClearPolitics average of recent polls. Deborah Ross, a Democrat, leads the Republican incumbent, Richard Burr, by a slimmer margin in the race for the United States Senate. McCrory, the only statewide candidate saddled with H.B. 2, is trailing Cooper by an average of 4 points. [The New York Times Magazine, 10/7/16]
HRC President Chad Griffin On MSNBC: HB 2 Is “The Critical Driver For Turnout” In The State Of North Carolina. On MSNBC, HRC president Chad Griffin pointed to North Carolina’s anti-LGBT HB 2 as the “critical driver for turnout” in the crucial swing state. MSNBC’s Steve Patterson noted that an August poll showed that 70 percent of voters called HB 2 “bad for North Carolina’s reputation.” From the October 21 edition of MSNBC’s Live With Kate Snow:
STEVE PATTERSON (HOST): This is a big battleground state -- 15 electoral votes up for grabs. It’s really been a contentious swing state. In 2008 it went to Obama, in 2012 went to Romney, both by very narrow margins. Now there are contentious races up and down the ballot, and both sides energized by the controversial issue -- the passing of HB 2.
CHAD GRIFFIN: HB 2 is the most hateful piece of legislation we have ever seen, attacking our community and many minority communities.
PATTERSON: Across North Carolina, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group, the Human Rights Campaign, is mobilizing voters. HB 2 says that people must use the bathroom that corresponds with the gender on their birth certificate. Supporters call it common sense, opponents say it is discrimination that strips the LGBT community of their legal protections.
GRIFFIN: I think HB 2 is the critical driver for turnout in the state of North Carolina. What this governor and the state legislature did badly tarnished the state’s reputation, it’s cost the state millions of dollars. I suspect we’ll see historic turnout, particularly in our community.
PATTERSON: In an August poll, 70 percent of voters called HB 2 “bad for North Carolina’s reputation.” [MSNBC, 10/21/16]