GOP Gets 33% of Gay Vote in House Races

Gay Voting Block on Par with Hispanics in Size, GOP Support; New House Leadership Put on Notice: Go Anti-Gay at Your Own Peril

November 9, 1998 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Blogger Tumblr

[This analysis represents adjusted figures reported in today's New York Times.]

(WASHINGTON, DC) – Gay voters turned out in the 1998 elections, making up 4% of the total vote and giving a third of their votes to Republican House candidates, according to a Voter News Service exit poll reported by New York Times today. This was nearly identical to Hispanic voters, who made up 5% of the total vote and gave 35% of their votes to the GOP.

As a voting block, gays outnumbered Jewish and Asian voters and cast more votes for GOP House candidates than any other minority group polled except Hispanics. According to national voter turnout figures estimating that between 36% and 37% of eligible voters went to the polls, approximately 1 million gays voted for Republican House candidates in 1998, compared to 1.2 million Hispanics, 800,000 African Americans, 460,000 Jewish Americans, and 300,000 Asian Americans. In a cross-tabulating comparison, 1.8 million Americans who said they were most motivated by the Clinton sex scandal voted Republican.

"These polling numbers solidify the growing body of evidence each year that the gay vote is more in play between the parties than widely believed, and that gays should not be written off by the GOP," said Richard Tafel, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans. "With a majority of only six seats in the House, it is more important than ever for the Republican leadership to realize that they drive away 2 to 3 million gay votes over the next two years at their own peril, particularly in key swing districts where races are decided by only a few thousand votes. A shift of only 10% of the gay vote out of the GOP column in 2000 could be decisive in key races where the GOP majority hangs in the balance."

"So the message for the new House leadership is simple – if you go anti-gay in the 106th Congress, your majority could easily disappear," Tafel said. "No more ridiculous anti-gay commentary. No more "kleptomania" comparisons and no more attacks on the gay community through legislation. Instead, the Republican leadership should learn from the successes of inclusive Republican governors who reach out to all voters and promote a positive conservative agenda, and the defeats of harsh, anti-gay right-wing ideologues whose political weakness has been largely exposed in this election."

Log Cabin Republicans endorsed 34 GOP House candidates in 1998, of which 26 were elected, and spent over $120,000 in GOP campaign contributions and get-out-the-vote activities at the local, state and federal level in the 1998 cycle. The combination of resources, aggressive local and state activities and overall message turned out one million votes for gay-supportive Republicans.

Successfully turning out one-third of the gay vote for GOP House candidates in 1998 was not a product of the outgoing House leadership, but in spite of it. Tafel credited a growing number of Republican candidates who aggressively courted gay support with a message that is fiscally conservative, tough on crime, strong on defense and supportive of equal rights and inclusion of gays. When some GOP Congressional leaders made high-profile comparisons of gays to kleptomaniacs and drug addicts in the summer of 1998, several GOP Congressional candidates were forced to vocally criticize and run against the leadership for it to stay competitive. When House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-TX) pushed legislation to overturn all existing non-discrimination policies for gay federal workers in August, 63 conservative and moderate GOP House members rose up in opposition, speaking against it on the House floor and voting it down with Democrats.

An example of the importance of gay votes for Republicans was seen in the two closest House GOP victories in California. In the midst of a Democratic tidal wave in the state, were won with gay support – Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA) of San Diego won by only 4,000 votes and Steve Kuykendall, who won one of only six House seats which switched to the GOP, was elected in Long Beach by a 3,200-vote margin. Both were endorsed by Log Cabin Republicans and are strong gay rights supporters.

"It is clear that instead of pandering to a narrow special interest group like the far right, which alienates every minority group from the GOP and widens the gender gap, the incoming House Republican leadership must put forth a positive, inclusive conservative agenda that unifies people and brings people into the party across the board," Tafel said.

Log Cabin Republicans is the nation's largest gay and lesbian Republican organization, with 50+ chapters nationwide, a full-time Washington office and a federal political action committee.