Why Obama’s support for same-sex marriage won’t hurt him among African Americans

REUTERS U.S. President Barack Obama talks about the need for Congress to ensure taxes don’t go up for the majority … Continued

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U.S. President Barack Obama talks about the need for Congress to ensure taxes don’t go up for the majority of Americans next year, while in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington, August 3, 2012.

Ever since President Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage, pundits and pollsters alike have struggled to determine what impact this endorsement will have on the black community. Black voters, whose overwhelming support helped propel Obama to the White House, are also less supportive of same-sex marriage than the general public, leading some to wonder whether Obama will lose some of these critical allies at the ballot box in November. Last week, a group of black pastors connected with the National Organization for Marriage slammed Obama, charging that his support for same-sex marriage was a sign that he was taking the support of the black community for granted.

One challenging feature of this debate is the dearth of hard facts; conventional polls only have small sample sizes with large margins of sampling error for black Americans, which limit strong conclusions. But recent polling by Public Religion Research Institute, which interviewed 810 black Americans nationwide, provides a definitive answer: there is no indication that Obama’s position on same-sex marriage will significantly influence black voters’ decision this November.

Three findings signal that efforts to leverage this issue to galvanize the black community against Obama are likely to be unsuccessful: continued overwhelming support for Obama among black voters, the fact that same-sex marriage is a very low-priority issue for black Americans, and—the most direct evidence at all—most black Americans who are aware of Obama’s support for same-sex marriage also approve of his position.

Firstly, there is no evidence that Obama’s support has slipped among the black community since his announcement. Public Religion Research Institute’s recent July poll found that an overwhelming majority of black voters (87 percent) say they would vote for Obama if the election were held today. Only 3 percent say they would vote for Mitt Romney, while 10 percent say they did not know or refused the question. Similarly, 9-in-10 (91 percent) black voters say that they hold a favorable view of Obama, compared to only 14 percent who say that they hold a favorable view of Romney.

Second, same-sex marriage has always been a low-priority political issue for black Americans, who are, like other Americans, focused primarily on the economy this election season. Fewer than 1-in-5 (18 percent) black Americans cite same-sex marriage as a critical issue facing the country, compared to 71 percent who say the same of the economy. Although the black pastors’ new campaign might suggest that this issue has more traction within a religious context, fewer than half (47 percent) of black Americans say that their clergy discusses the issue of homosexuality sometimes or often. Notably, over 7-in-10 (71 percent) black Americans say that it’s possible to disagree with their church’s teaching on the issue of homosexuality and still be considered a good Christian, suggesting that black Americans in the pews are not necessarily taking their cues on this issue from clergy or official church positions.


View Photo Gallery: President Obama’s reelection campaign is raising money and reaching out to voters and volunteers.

Finally, the PRRI poll shows that of the two-thirds (68 percent) of black Americans who are aware of Obama’s support for same-sex marriage, a solid majority (60 percent) say they approve of his position. This may seem counterintuitive, given that 53 percent of black Americans oppose allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally, while 43 percent are in favor. But this differential is one more indicator of the unshakability of Obama’s support within the black community.

The question of whether President Obama’s support for same-sex marriage will affect his support among black voters is liable to come up periodically between now and Election Day. But the answer to that question will likely be the same as it is today, three months after Obama’s announcement. Despite the fact that there is some dissonance between Obama’s position and where black Americans are overall on this issue, there is simply no evidence it is driving a wedge between Obama and black voters.

Robert P. Jones
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  • dcofer

    This is a comical blog face it black voters vote skin color first and if you don’t agree with that look at the collection of jackals they have elected in the city here. Marion Barry a crackhead alcoholic will get elected 5 years after he dies. What I can’t understand is do blacks pay differen’t prices at the store or gaspumps because under Obamanomics those prices have doubled since his election and soon the social programs that many poor rely on will be cut for lack of funds. But hey he is such a nice guy and what a great speaker not much of a president but whatever. ABO in 2012 Anybody but Obama

  • amaciej

    Meh. Sour grapes. If you have data to suggest any other person, Republican or Democrat, would have achieved more in the last 3.5 years with the same world economic environment than President Obama has achieved, bring it on. Seriously. Talk is cheap and empty claims that your guy would have done better ring very hollow from the camp who drove America off a cliff in the first place.

  • xandersun

    If black voters vote skin color first, it’s only because they had such great teachers among the white people of the confederacy. Not to mention the Irish and Italians of New York and Massachusetts.

  • Universalremote

    It would be hard for an African American to vote for a man who preached black racial inferiority.

    Mitt was preaching in France in the early 1970’s. Until 1978 the LDS considered black people to be the spawn of Cain. Mitt had to have taught this dogma.

    So until Mr. Romney ‘refudiates’ his preaching from the 1970’s, he’s got a problem.

    And that’s not including the tax scandal.

    Either Romney releases his taxes for the last 10 years or he will withdraw from the race.

    Two scandals are two too many.

  • MrDarwin

    Did anybody ever proofread this article???

  • Carstonio

    Whether we’re talking about skin color or religious affiliation or sexual orientation, discrimination and unequal treatment against minorities are still wrong. There’s nothing wrong with being different. It’s riduclous that so many people regard others’ sexual orientation with anything but benign indifference. It’s almost like there are people opposed to homosexuality who lie awake at night thinking, “Oh, I wish they would stop being gay.” While I don’t understand the romantic and sexual attraction that some men have for other men, or some women have for other women, I have no reason to care one way or the other.

  • marcluxjd

    The NOM is an astroturf organization funded by tiny group of multimillionaire fundamentalist ideologues.

  • oorfenegro

    dcofer…if you were correct Blacks would have turned out in mass to support Alan Keyes, J.C. Watts and Herman Cain; Jesse Jackson, Shirley Chihlom and Al Sharpton would have received the Democratic nomination. In New Orleans most African American voters supported Mitch Landreau, a white man, for new orleans mayor over Black candidates

    BTW…gas prices today are cheaper than they were four years ago.
    …………the price of a laptop computer four year ago -$800; today
    under $300
    …………50 inch Flatscreen TV four years; $1000, today under $450

  • oorfenegro

    Aren’t the actions by the Black Pastors against Obama against the law? I though ministers; via their tax exempt status, couldn’t advocate for or against a candidate or political party. Any officials or spokesperson for any non-profit organization will make it clear that they can’t endorse or organize for or against a partisian candidate or political party. How can these ministers organize to defeat Obama without risking their tax exempt status?

  • NVaSkeptic

    Seems prett clear that they have a choice: Do they want to be Obamabots, or do they want to think for themselves?

    The rest will take care of itself depending on what the answer is.

  • persiflage

    Of course, black folks want a white, rightwing republican regime that favors the rich over all other voters – by a large margin. And republicans have always done so much for minorites (but not since Lincoln).

    Doesn’t everyone want this?

  • WmarkW

    Can we just accede that Obama will win 94+/-2% of the black vote, and that it isn’t an important part of this race?

    Let’s focus on the semi-poor, potentially anti-Mormon whites of Appalachia — Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. THEY will decide this election, even if it’s by abstaining.

  • larryclyons

    if we’re depending on those knuckle dragging mouth breathing trailer park troglodytes, then this nation is doomed.

  • larryclyons

    Tell me what does this have to do with the article? As far as I can see, a factual translation of your screed would be

    Look! Squirrel!

  • beowulf3

    Yes. Iguanas.

  • beowulf3

    The smaller rodents aren’t a distraction.

  • beowulf3

    Because having wives such as his has turned them gay too?

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