The gay, lesbian, and bisexual electorate in America is sizeable and growing and could be especially influential in mid-size city congressional elections. An off-year election, combined with the Clinton crisis, portend a very low turn out in November - adding even greater potential significance to the GLB vote. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) recently released "Out and Voting: The Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Vote in Congressional House Elections, 1990-1996."
The report is an in-depth profile of the gay, lesbian, and bisexual (GLB) voting block and the first-ever analysis of the impact of this emerging constituency in national congressional elections.
"Out and Voting is a wake up call to the major parties, to congressional candidates, and to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) community itself. Our vote can make a difference," said Kerry Lobel, NGLTF executive director. "The voting booth is not the closet it once was," she added.
The GLB vote receives far less attention from the major parties, candidates, and the media as compared to other voting blocks. Yet, the report demonstrates, at five percent the GLB vote is as significant as other definable segments of the electorate (Latinos 4.5 percent, Jews 3.4 percent, and Asian Americans 1.1 percent.). In addition, the report shows the GLB vote to be growing over time. Self-identification among GLB voters jumped from 1.3 percent in 1992 to five percent in 1996.
The report was authored by Dr. Robert Bailey of the Rutgers University School of Public Policy and Administration and produced by the Policy Institute of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Among the report's findings is that, contrary to conventional wisdom, the strength of the GLB vote is most significant in medium sized city congressional districts. Bailey shows rates of voter self-identification to be highest in medium sized cities (8.9 percent in 1996).
"Out and Voting" also shows the GLB vote to be bipartisan. More than one out of four (28 percent) GLB voters in the 1996 election voted Republican. According to Vaid, director of NGLTF's Policy Institute, "Such electoral diversity and fluid loyalty should send a signal to Democrats that they should not take the GLB vote for granted and to Republicans in swing districts that they dismiss this vote at their own peril."
Along with an important message to Democrats and moderate Republicans that the GLB vote should be considered seriously, the findings of Out and Voting also sound an alarm to GLB voters themselves. According to Urvashi Vaid, "The GLB vote is just beginning to be harnessed by our movement. The Bailey report sends the important message that the votes we cast add up -- but we must take our power at the polls seriously."
The report was released at a press conference today at the National Press Club. Dr. Bailey presented on the findings of the report. Vaid spoke about the current prominence of GLBT issues in the current political debate and the impact the Clinton crisis may have on the GLB vote. Rich Tafel, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, discussed the gay Republican vote and the battle for the heart of the Republican Party. Daniel McGlinchey, National Stonewall Democratic Federation interim executive director, talked of the growing recognition of the GLB community by congressional Democrats. Kathleen DeBold, Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund political director, provided a briefing on the 1998 congressional campaigns of out lesbian and gay candidates. Winnie Stachelberg, Human Rights Campaign political director, discussed community voter mobilization and key House races. NGLTF executive director Kerry Lobel moderated the press conference.
The "Out and Voting" report can also be accessed from NGLTF's web site at www.ngltf.org.