The Obama Gay Marriage Bounce Is Steady, Racially Broad

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Reporting on Politics and Policy.
June 5 2012 4:18 PM

The Obama Gay Marriage Bounce Is Steady, Racially Broad

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US President Barack Obama arrives to speak at the Democratic National Committee's Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Leadership Gala in New York, June 23, 2011.

Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

It has only been a month since president Obama came out in favor of gay marriage, but multiple polls have demonstrated that his support seems to be making a difference.

The latest came today from PPP, with 49 percent of Minnesotans saying they now oppose the state’s proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and 43 percent supporting the measure. This is an almost mirror reversal from the 44-48 number in the last PPP survey from January.

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What’s interesting here to me is the racial breakdown of this poll. Previous pollsters in Maryland, North Carolina, and nationally had focused on the fact that Obama’s endorsement seemed to have the biggest impact among black voters.

While PPP only breaks race down by “white” and “other,” the massive shift in Minnesota is clearly coming from white voters.

Here are the crosstabs on the January survey: 

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And here are the crosstabs on today’s poll:

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Over at the Huffington Post, Keith Boykin makes a convincing argument that homophobia in the black community has been overhyped by the media and that there has always been a quiet undercurrent of African American support for LGBT issues.

I think that David Taintor’s good explanation for the overall trend supports the idea that this gay marriage support was already bubbling just underneath the surface among a broad swath of racial groups, and that the endorsement served mainly to focus attention on the issue and energize the strongest supporters. What Taintor found in talking to some of the opponents of Minnesota’s ban is that marriage equality activism boomed after the president’s announcement.

“The next day, we didn’t have enough chairs for everybody wanting to work with the campaign,” the anti-amendment group’s press secretary Kate Brickman told TPM. Volunteer interest “definitely swelled,” she added.

This makes perfect sense. Voters, white and black, are not changing their minds because Obama evolved and they want to follow the leader. People who always supported gay marriage have become more energized thanks to the president’s support and they are expressing that energy by volunteering, campaigning, and talking about the issue more openly. All of that renewed discussion has a ripple effect among white independents and black Democrats alike.

Jeremy Stahl is a Slate senior editor. You can follow him on Twitter.