LGBTQ+ voters look a lot like swing voters

A new poll reveals how LGTBQ+ Americans are feeling ahead of the election.

March 8, 2024, 12:43 PM

There is a voting bloc in America that is a growing share of the population, is reliably overrepresented in the electorate, identifies mostly as centrist or moderate, and says in recent polls that the economy is its top concern. You might think this is a cohort that both parties would be trying to woo, but it’s actually one the GOP has actively antagonized: LGBTQ+ Americans.

New polling shared first with 538 gives us a rare look at a demographic that is often underpolled heading into the 2024 election. When considered alongside just-released survey data from GLAAD, an LGBTQ+ media organization, it paints a picture of a segment of the electorate that is likely to continue supporting the Democratic Party not because it leans particularly left, but because the Republican Party has taken such an aggressively anti-LGBTQ+ tack and made these voters’ rights a partisan issue.

LGBTQ+ voters appear considerably more likely to vote for President Joe Biden than the general population, according to new polling of 600 Americans who identify as LGBTQ+ from The Independent Center, a centrist think tank, and the Bullfinch Group. When asked who they would vote for in a head-to-head between Biden and former President Donald Trump, 43 percent said “definitely Biden,” with another 13 percent saying they leaned toward Biden. Just 28 percent said they would definitely support or leaned toward supporting Trump. Another 16 percent were undecided. When given the option to vote for Biden, Trump or a hypothetical independent third candidate, 21 percent said they’d prefer the independent, but 44 percent still backed Biden.

This is despite the fact that, like much of the country, LGBTQ+ Americans aren’t particularly enamored with the president. Though they’re more likely to approve of the job Biden is doing than Americans overall, the president’s approval rating was still flat with this group: An equal share (47 percent) said they approved of the job Biden was doing as said they disapproved.

Historically, LGBTQ+ voters have largely voted Democratic. But this isn’t necessarily because they lean left ideologically. In the Independent Center survey, a plurality (30 percent) of LGBTQ+ Americans identified their political leanings as “moderate centrist/independent.” When asked to place themselves on a scale from 0 to 10, with 0 being the most liberal and 10 being the most conservative, the average response was 3.9. Similarly, a plurality said that they’d like politicians to be a 5 on that scale. And when asked what they thought was the most pressing issue in America today, the top response, with 24 percent, was “jobs and the economy.”

This is in line with Pew Research polling from a decade ago that showed about 30 percent of LGBTQ+ Americans identified as independent. And in the Independent Center poll, a plurality (44 percent) said they preferred congressional candidates who would work and vote with both parties, rather than one or the other exclusively.

Brett Loyd, a contributor at the Independent Center and CEO of the Bullfinch Group, which conducted the polling, pointed out that this ought to make LGBTQ+ Americans an appealing voting bloc for Republicans. “If I was talking about any other group, and I said 16 percent of X demographic is unsure how they're going to vote in the election … and a plurality of these voters do not affiliate with the Republican or Democratic parties, and the most pressing issue that this demographic finds in America today is jobs and the economy ... If I said that to an RNC meeting right now, they would go, ‘Oh, great, fantastic, which group? That sounds perfect. That's right up our alley,’” Loyd said.

But the Republican Party has positioned itself firmly against the LGBTQ+ community. The party’s most recent platform explicitly condemns same-sex marriage and provides support for conversion therapy, for example. Over the past few years, a record amount of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation has also been introduced and passed at the state level.

The GOP’s focus on culture-war issues has only served to alienate much of the LGBTQ+ voter base even further. In the Independent Center poll, when asked which party does a better job at addressing the needs and concerns of LGBTQ+ individuals, 54 percent said the Democratic Party and just 9 percent said the Republican Party. And a plurality said that Biden’s stance on LGBTQ+ issues made them more likely to support him, while Trump’s made them less likely to support him. In the GLAAD survey, 72 percent of LGBTQ+ voters said the current state of political discourse in the country had had negative impacts on their mental health and emotional well-being.

Polling suggests LGBTQ+ issues, unsurprisingly, impact LGBTQ+ votes. In the Independent Center poll, LGBTQ+ issues were the second-most commonly chosen issue when asked where they want presidential candidates to focus their efforts (inflation/affordability was the most commonly chosen response), and 73 percent said that LGBTQ+ issues are equally or more important than other issues in deciding how they will vote.

“Overall, the reason that LGBTQ people seem to vote in large numbers for Democrats is because, unfortunately, today's Republican Party has made LGBTQ equality a partisan issue,” said Zeke Stokes, a consultant for GLAAD. “There are LGBTQ people on all places of the ideological perspective when it comes to what we would traditionally consider conservative to liberal in this country. But we've got one party, unfortunately, who's put a target on our backs, in order to appeal to a minority of their base.”

When races are won and lost by just a few percentage points, a bloc of millions of Americans who are motivated to vote is worth a close look. And while there have always been a segment of LGBTQ+ Americans who vote Republican, the GOP is holding itself back from growing those numbers.