After Barack Obama came out in favor of same-sex marriage on Wednesday in an exclusive interview with ABC News’ Robin Roberts, Republicans fired back, putting out a statement that the president was “playing politics” with the issue.
“While President Obama has played politics on this issue, the Republican Party and our presumptive nominee Mitt Romney have been clear. We support maintaining marriage between one man and one woman and would oppose any attempts to change that,” said RNC Chairman Reince Priebus in a written statement.
Romney appeared to evade a question from a reporter as to whether or not he believed Obama had flip-flopped on the issue.
“I believe that based upon the interview that he gave today on ABC, it said he’d changed his view, but you’re a better judge than I,” Romney said at an event in Oklahoma City.
The accusation that Obama has played politics with this issue is not new. President Obama has previously been accused of waffling on the issue. When he first ran for president in 2008, Obama’s position was that he did not support same-sex marriage. In 2010, he said that his views were “evolving.” And Wednesday’s statement came as the issue reignited after Vice President Joe Biden appeared to express support for the gay marriage on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
The political ramifications of Obama’s statement have yet to unfold, but an analysis of exit polls and ABC News polling suggest that the president might not have much to gain or lose in November from his position.
The most recent ABC News polling on the subject, taken in March 2012, showed that 52 percent of Americans support the legalization of same-sex marriage. However, a composite of the two most recent ABC News polls on the subject showed that support is lower among African-Americans – only 41 percent support, while 55 percent oppose. Support is also slightly lower among Hispanics – a key voting bloc in 2012 – with 49 percent support, but that number is higher than those who oppose same sex marriage – 42 percent.
Of course, presidential elections aren’t won by receiving a majority of the popular vote. Rather, it is a battle to accumulate Electoral College votes by winning individual states. And the issue of same-sex marriage has not always fallen along clear red and blue state lines. Thirty states have passed constitutional amendments banning same sex marriage – and some of those states are solidly Democratic, like Oregon, California and Maine.
In 2008, President Obama won the state of California with roughly 61 percent of the vote. In that same election, however, voters passed Proposition 8, a measure to ban gay marriage in the state, by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent.
Exit polls showed that a narrow majority of white voters voted against Proposition 8 (a vote in support of the legalization of gay marriage) – 51 percent voted against, while 49 percent voted to ban same-sex marriage in California. A majority of African-American and Latino voters supported Prop 8, however. Seventy percent of African-American voters voted for the measure, along with 53 percent of Latino voters.
When broken down by age, a trend emerged: On the whole, younger people tended to support same-sex marriage by a considerably larger margin than older demographics. White voters between the ages of 18 and 29 voted against Proposition 8 67 percent to 33 percent. Latino voters between 18 and 29 voted against the measure 59 percent to 41 percent.
There’s been some speculation as to whether or not young voters will turn out in 2012 at the same levels that they turned out in 2008.
There was no exit polling taken in North Carolina, a crucial swing state for the Democrats, on Tuesday when voters took to the polls to cast ballots on Amendment One - a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage which passed with 61 percent support.
Polling shows that the economy is the No. 1 issue on voters’ minds, by far, so it’s unclear what role same-sex marriage will play in November when voters cast their ballots. From an enthusiasm standpoint, the remarks appear to have been- and will likely continue to be- beneficial, at least in the short term. Less than 24 hours after the interview aired, Obama’s comments have already fired up his base, and it’s likely he’ll see a big boost in fundraising in the coming days and weeks.
Still, from an electoral college perspective, the possibilities for political gain are not immediately evident.