Newsweek couldn’t wait to call President Barack Obama “the first gay President” after he stunned the nation by coming out in support of same-sex marriage on May 9. But what’s even more surprising is the statement’s positive impact on voters.
“I’ve just concluded that for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married,” Obama told Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts in an interview that aired on ABC. The simple but powerful statement represented a marked shift in his public support for LGBT rights. Previously the president claimed he believed all Americans should have the same rights, but that his position on same-sex marriage was “evolving.”
According to a Washington Post/ABC News poll, Obama’s announcement has resulted in a surge of approval across the board: 53 percent of Americans believe that it should be legalized (compared to 39 percent in 2006). In addition, Obama’s declaration appears to have led to an unprecedented 11-point spike in support for same-sex marriage among African-American voters, a bloc that traditionally votes Democratic but espouses more conservative views toward homosexuality. In total, 59% of African-Americans support gay marriage.
Rap mogul Jay-Z is one of them. In an interview with CNN, Beyonce’s husband likened discrimination against marriage equality to long-standing bias against blacks when he said, “I’ve always thought it as something that was still holding the country back. What people do in their own homes is their business and you can choose to love whoever you love. That’s their business. It’s no different than discriminating against blacks. It’s discrimination, plain and simple.”
And if it costs Obama votes? “I think it’s the right thing to do. It’s not about votes. It’s about people. It’s the right thing to do as a human being,” Jay-Z added.
But according to some political analysts, Obama may lose voters in so-called “swing states.” Take the Curious Case of Florida. A Quinnipiac University poll indicated that a majority of voters said the candidates’ stance on same-sex marriage would not affect the way they would vote. But the pool also shows one in four Floridians would vote for Mitt Romney, based on Obama’s view of same-sex marriage.
Quinnipiac pollster Peter Brown predicts the President’s support of gay marriage won’t affect the election one way or another. According to Brown, and to quote James Carville, “it’s the economy, stupid!”
“The economy is what matters overwhelmingly and it moves both men and women,” Brown said. “[Gay marriage and domestic partnership issues] rank relatively low on the priority scale.”