Metro Weekly

Poll: Majority of Americans would be comfortable with a gay president

Acceptance of an "out" candidate has increased significantly among older and younger voters since 2006

Pete Buttigieg — Photo: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert / YouTube

A majority of Americans are either enthusiastic about or comfortable with a gay or lesbian person running for president, according to a new poll.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, first published in March, finds that Americans’ attitudes towards a gay presidential candidate have changed drastically over the last decade.

Specifically, 54% of Americans say they’d be comfortable with a gay or lesbian person running for president. Another 14% say they’d be “enthusiastic” about the idea.

A similar poll in 2006 found that more than 50% of Americans had “reservations” about or were “very uncomfortable” with the prospect of an openly gay candidate for the presidency. In that survey, a combined 43% of American voters said they were either comfortable or enthusiastic about an out gay or lesbian candidate.

According to the most recent poll, three-quarters of American voters under age 35 are enthusiastic or comfortable with a gay presidential candidate. That marks a significant shift from the 47% who replied similarly in the 2006 poll.

A similar large-scale shift has occurred among voters age 65 and older over that same period, with the percentage of people saying they were enthusiastic or comfortable with a gay candidate rising from 31% in 2006 to 56% in 2019. 

The 2019 poll was conducted between Feb. 24 and Feb. 27 and surveyed over 900 adults. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

The poll’s findings are coincidentally becoming public at the same time that South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg is surging in polls of Democratic primary voters, coming in third behind Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders in at least one poll out of Iowa.

With more spotlight on his candidacy, many pundits have begun wondering whether Buttigieg’s sexual orientation would be a non-starter for some of the voters Democrats are hoping to sway to their side in order to win back the presidency in 2020.

Buttigieg, who has not officially entered the race but has started a presidential exploratory committee, recently announced he had raised more than $7 million in the first quarter of the year. He previously announced he had raised money from more than 65,000 individual donors, the threshold set by the Democratic National Committee for appearing on stage during the first televised debates, which will start in June of this year. 

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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