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Groundbreaking national survey studies LGB voters
Clinton has overwhelming support as LGB’s candidate of choice

by Will Billings . Contributing Writer
NEW YORK, N.Y. — A national survey from Hunter College in New York is shedding a groundbreaking light on the political views and habits of lesbian, gay and bisexual voters.
The Hunter College survey is the first public, political survey ever conducted by a university-based team of scholars with a nationally representative sample of LGB Americans. The transgender community, unfortunately, was not included.

The results, released at the end of November, show that Sen. Hillary Clinton has the support of 63 percent of LGB constituents likely to vote in the Democratic primaries, followed by Sen. Barack Obama with 22 percent and John Edwards with seven percent. The survey also found that during the process of “coming out,” LGB people become more liberal and more engaged in the political process than the general population.

“We found a stunning transformation in political views in the LGB community of a magnitude that is virtually unparalleled among social groupings in the U.S. population,” said Hunter College political science professor Kenneth Sherrill, one of the study’s investigators.

The survey also found that nine in 10 LGB voters will cast ballots in the Democratic primaries and 21 percent say that lesbian and gay rights will be the most important issue influencing their vote in 2008.

Seventy-two percent of LGB voters consider Sen. Clinton a supporter of gay rights, with Sen. Obama at 52 percent and former Sen. Edwards at 41 percent. On the Republican side, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was at 37 percent, followed by Sen. John McCain at 13 percent.

“These findings suggest opportunities. Clinton benefits from a high turnout in this very Democratic bloc; her opponents would benefit from making their stated support for gay rights more visible to LGB voters,” said Murray Edelman, a scholar at Rutgers University’s Eagleton Institute and another study investigator.

Thirty-three percent of the survey respondents said they are “very interested” in politics compared to 22 percent of a general population sample. LGB citizens were more likely than the general population to have contacted a government official in the past 12 months (23 percent to 16 percent).
“These levels of civic engagement indicate that gay people can have a bigger influence on public policy than suggested by their relatively small share of the population,” said Patrick J. Egan, an assistant professor at New York University and a study investigator.

When asked which gay rights goals are “extremely important,” respondents chose as the most important enacting employment non-discrimination laws (59 percent); protections from bias crimes (59 percent); securing spousal benefits (58 percent); AIDS funding (53 percent); and legalizing same-sex marriage (50 percent).

The rights of transgender people and ending the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy of the U.S. Armed Forces ranked at 36 percent for importance.

When asked about the proposed federal law making it illegal to discriminate against lesbians, gays and bisexuals in employment, respondents (by a margin of 60 to 37 percent) said that those seeking to pass the law were wrong to remove protections for transgender people in order to get the votes necessary for passage in Congress.

The Human Rights Campaign — who funded the Hunter College survey with a grant from its non-profit foundation — came under fire for supporting a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that did not include transgender protections. During that national controversy, HRC used a poll that said 70 percent of those they asked thought ENDA should move ahead even without trans-specific protections. The Hunter College poll reverses those numbers.

The Hunter College survey had a margin of error of plus-or-minus four percentage points and was conducted Nov. 15th through Nov. 26th, 2007, with 768 respondents by Knowledge Networks, Inc., the same polling company used to conduct HRC’s transgender-ENDA poll.

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