One could probably ascribe the slight decline in Democratic voting among small town residents either to Obama's "bitter" comments back in the spring or to the choice of former small town mayor Sarah Palin for the Republican VP slot. But I'm particularly curious about the voting patterns for gays and lesbians. Keep in mind that this is still a very loyal Democratic group, preferring Obama to McCain by 70-24. But why would Obama have lost some ground among this group compared to Kerry's performance four years earlier? I found this particularly surprising since Obama's policy stances on same-sex issues are pretty much identical to Kerry's.
Two guesses, one about composition and the other about policy:
- More Republicans are out of the closet. It's getting steadily safer to be openly gay, even among conservatives. Therefore, the group of people calling themselves gay in exit polls now contains more Republican voters than it did four years ago. Weighing against this theory is the fact that the number of people identifying themselves as gay hasn't changed appreciably in the past four years; four percent of respondents in both exit polls claimed to be gay. But it's possible that the mix has changed somewhat.
- The stances of the Democratic nominees may not have changed since 2004, but the expectations of the gay and lesbian community have. Gay marriage was still a pretty toxic topic just four years ago. No one expected Kerry, even if he'd felt particularly courageous, to support it. Today, it's lost some of its toxicity. Obama's stance against it seemed more cowardly this year.
Update: Alert reader JHB notes that the 2004 Republican Party ran on a pretty explicitly anti-gay platform, while the McCain campaign this year really didn't touch those issues. This could have mollified anger toward the GOP somewhat among moderate gays and lesbians.