1999 Exit polls shows diverse picture of GLB electorate

Voters willing to identify themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual, representing 4 percent of the electorate, are one of the most diverse constituencies in America, according to an analysis of Voter News Service polling data recently released. The poll, conducted on Election Day 1998, showed that gay, lesbian and bisexual voters are more positive about the direction of the nation and the future. The size of the G/L/B vote in 1998 was similar to the 1996 Voter News Service exit poll, which put the G/L/B vote at 5 percent.

"This poll underscores the diversity of the gay, lesbian and bisexual vote and establishes it as a key voting bloc," said HRC Communications Director David M. Smith. "Those seeking office from both parties should take notice, as this constituency becomes more and more identifiable and politically potent."

The poll revealed major demographic differences between those willing to identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual and the whole national electorate. More G/L/B voters are non-white, 32 percent vs. 18 percent, and the G/L/B constituency is younger, 88 percent under age sixty compared to 72 percent under age 60 among voters overall. The G/L/B vote consists of more men, 59 percent male among G/L/B voters, compared to 49 percent male among all voters. Gay, lesbian and bisexual voters also had lower family income, with 66 percent under $50,000 vs. 52 percent for the entire electorate.

According to the poll, gay, lesbian and bisexual voters are more optimistic about the direction of the country with 68 percent saying things in the country are generally going in the right direction, compared to 59 percent of all voters.

Nationally, Democratic House candidates greatly benefited from the G/L/B electorate, receiving 65 percent of the vote, compared to only 32 percent for the Republicans. The Democratic leanings of G/L/B voters was even more pronounced in California where they chose Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gray Davis over Republican Dan Lungren -- 73 percent to 19 percent. In the California Senate race, G/L/B voters gave Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer a significant boost over Republican Matt Fong, 68 percent to 28 percent (California was the only state where data was available).

Politically, 49 percent of gay, lesbian or bisexual voters consider themselves to be liberal, while 37 percent of G/L/B voters say they are moderate and 14 percent consider themselves conservative. In contrast, only 19 percent of voters overall consider themselves liberal, 31 percent conservative and 50 percent moderate.

G/L/B voters are also much more active on the internet. 60 percent claim regular internet usage vs. 40 percent of voters overall.

"Because of intense societal anti-gay bias, many people are still reluctant to identify themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual," Smith said. "As result, this poll cannot be interpreted as a definitive look at the size or tenor of the gay vote, but it does offer an emerging picture of this often overlooked constituency."

The Voter News Service exit poll is conducted for ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox and the Associated Press. The Human Rights Campaign purchased the data from Voter News Service.

The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national lesbian and gay political organization, on with members throughout the country. It effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support and educates the public to ensure that lesbian and gay Americans can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community. sometimes messages from anti-gay organizations are forwarded as "opposition research."

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