Guest Blogger

The GLBT voting block

Filed By Guest Blogger | July 31, 2007 12:20 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: election campaigns, Equality Forum, Malcolm Lazin, Michael Nutter, Philadelphia

[EDITOR'S NOTE:] The following is a guest post by Malcolm Lazin. Malcolm is the Executive Director of Equality Forum, a national and international GLBT civil rights organization with an educational focus. Equality Forum undertakes high impact initiatives, produces documentary films, coordinates GLBT History Month and presents annually the largest national and international GLBT civil rights forum.

malcolmlazin.jpgEquality Forum, an international gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) civil rights organization, today released the results of a study suggesting that gay and lesbian voters may vote as a block, and called for future exit polling of GLBT voters. Equality Forum used the recent Philadelphia mayoral primary as its subject for the study.

The city of Philadelphia has a highly-Democratic voter base, and the May 15, 2007 Democratic primary was essentially the election for the city’s next mayor. Five well-known politicians were seeking the office: two longtime Members of Congress, a former City Councilman, a State Representative who chairs the Appropriations Committee in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, and a wealthy former Deputy Mayor. The former City Councilman, Michael Nutter, spent most of the race lagging in fourth place before he surged to victory, garnering 36.6% of the citywide vote.

Equality Forum reviewed the votes cast in seven distinct Philadelphia gay neighborhoods and found that Nutter garnered 74% of the vote in these neighborhoods. A review of the top 12 Philadelphia tracts identified in the U.S. Census as having the most same-sex couples residing in the same household found that Nutter received 69% of the vote in these census tracts.

The study compared the percentage of votes from the gay neighborhoods and census tracts to the percentage of votes each candidate received in the respective wards. The gay voting divisions averaged a 17% higher percentage vote for Nutter than the respective overall ward percentage.

The study is important both in its methodology and the result. It demonstrates that even in a field of gay-friendly candidates, a candidate who can provide the right cues can be the beneficiary of a GLBT block vote. Block voting increases a group’s political importance and power.

Nutter was viewed as a progressive outsider by a community that is perceived as outside the mainstream. Nutter actively campaigned for the gay vote and sent cues that he embraced diversity and wanted to shake up the establishment for Philadelphia’s benefit.

We believe that our methodology can be used to measure GLBT voters in municipal, state and federal elections. Our hope is that this study will encourage exit polls of GLBT voters in the 2008 federal primary and general elections. By focusing on areas across the nation with identifiable gay neighborhoods, an exit poll can generate a more comprehensive picture about GLBT voters and why they voted for a candidate.

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Cyndi Richards | July 31, 2007 7:30 PM

Self-realization is a wonderful thing, and I'm pretty sure the major political strategists and campaign managers have been aware of this info for quite a while now.

My question is, will this not-so-startling revelation ultimately help or hurt those of us in the nationwide LGBT community?

I mean, the "religious-right" is a "voting block" as well, and look what happened to them. Not only did our country wind up stuck with the current administration that they so foolishly believed in, but now there's a large segment of the of those same "fundies" who are completely disgruntled because they have yet to see all those sanctimonious, hot-button "family-value" campaign promises enacted into law.

Boo-hoo for them, hooray for our side!

My point is, history has shown that politicians will say whatever the "voting block du jour" wants to hear in order to secure their over-paid positions, and after the vote has been cast, there's NOTHING we can do about it.

This is my main fear regarding the mostly ineffectual language in the proposed "hate-crime" legislation (S.1105) that has so many in the LGB and especially T community believing that it's the "silver bullet" that's going to protect those from "alternative lifestyles" from the violent, and too often fatal, acts of ignorant bigots.

Will we learn from history, or just sit back and complacently watch it repeat itself?

>>> (all respect, no restraint) Cynthia Richards, vice-chair, Illinois Gender Advocates

I see your point about the actual effectiveness of a voting block. However, if we are recognized as one, at least they will have to weigh the cost of pandering to the others.

Good point, Paula. I think I'd rather see politicians having to decide between pandering to my interest group as versus, say, right-wing Christians. Hell, at this point I'd be happy to be pandered to! Even that would be a step up right now!

But I think this study is important just for the message it clearly sends. When we organize and act in the best interests of our community, we can make a difference in the political process.

queerwatcher | August 1, 2007 2:04 PM

what this study ignores is that college educated, middle income on up to wealthy and white people in Philadelphia voted for Nutter in droves. And there is (I think) always a higher concentration of gays and lesbians living in neighborhoods that are middle to upper class and white. So it's college educated, middle class white people who voted in a bloc here, not necessarily just lesbians and gays.