Oct. 15, 2004 -- -- Most likely voters agree with what John Kerry said about homosexuality at Wednesday's presidential debate -- but not with the way he said it.
Fifty-seven percent say being homosexual is the way people are, not the way they choose to be -- up from its level a decade ago. But likely voters by 2-1 also call it inappropriate for Kerry, when asked that question, to have noted that Vice President Dick Cheney's daughter is a lesbian. Cheney himself mentioned his daughter's sexual orientation in a campaign appearance in August.
After the debate, Cheney called himself "a pretty angry father" over Kerry's comment, and his wife called it "a cheap and tawdry political trick." Kerry responded that he was trying "to say something positive about the way strong families deal with the issue."
Kerry and President Bush remained locked in a 48 percent to 48 percent race in the latest ABC News tracking poll. While the tempest may not move many votes, it does look like a missed opportunity for Kerry, since most likely voters agree with his sentiment on the issue, but not how he expressed it.
Indeed only among one group, Kerry's own supporters, does a majority (52 percent) say it was appropriate for him to mention Mary Cheney. Among Democrats, 51 percent call it inappropriate; that rises to 64 percent of independents, 80 percent of Republicans and 82 percent of Bush supporters.
Yet, on the question of whether homosexuality is a trait or a choice, more people take Kerry's position. (In response to this question at the debate, Kerry said, "I think if you talk to anybody, it's not choice." Bush said, "I just don't know.") A third of likely voters call homosexuality a choice; 10 percent have no opinion; and, as noted, 57 percent say it's the way people are. (That compares with 49 percent in an ABC News/"Washington Post" poll of the general population in 1994.)