Obama, Same-Sex Marriage, And African-Americans

Is President Obama's announcement on same-sex marriage helping to create a change in opinion on the issue among African-Americans?

When President Obama publicly announced his support for same-sex marriage, one question that was raised almost immediately was what impact his announcement would have on the African-American community. While African-American voters supported President Obama in the last election by a margin of 95%-5%, it’s also true that the community tends to be religious and somewhat conservative on social issues such as same-sex marriage. Indeed,  African-Americans in California supported Proposition 8 by a 70% to 30% margin in the same election that they went for President Obama by a 94% to 6% margin. Additionally, the day before the Obama announcement, African-American voters in North Carolinavoted in favor of were polled as supporting Amendment One by a 2-to-1 margin. So when the President made his announcement some people wondered what it would mean for African-Americans, especially those that are more socially conservative on issues like this.

I don’t think anyone seriously believed that African-Americans would abandon the President over this issue, but I’m pretty sure that there weren’t many people expecting what a new Public Policy Polling Poll of Maryland voters [PDF], who will be voting on a referendum to attempt to overturn the state’s new law legalizing same-sex marriage in November:

– 57% of Maryland voters say they’re likely to vote for the new marriage law this fall,  compared to only 37% who are opposed. That 20 point margin of passage represents a 12  point shift from an identical PPP survey in early March, which found it ahead by a closer  52/44 margin.

– The movement over the last two months can be explained almost entirely by a major  shift in opinion about same-sex marriage among black voters. Previously 56% said they would vote against the new law with only 39% planning to uphold it. Those numbers have now almost completely flipped, with 55% of African Americans planning to vote for the law and only 36% now opposed.

– The big shift in attitudes toward same-sex marriage among black voters in Maryland is reflective of what’s happening nationally right now. A new ABC/Washington Post poll finds 59% of African Americans across the country supportive of same-sex marriage. A PPP poll in the critical swing state of Pennsylvania last weekend found a shift of 19 points in favor of same-sex marriage among black voters

Andrew Sullivan is perhaps a little bit too effusive in his praise:

The magnitude of what Obama has done is getting more and more tangible. He has gone from JFK to LBJ on civil rights in three years. And bridging the divide between gays and African-Americans will help both communities, and especially those who are gay andblack. This kind of defusing of polarization is what many of us hoped for in Obama. On this issue, he has delivered. And how.

Ta-Nehisi-Coates is slightly more sober:

[I]f these numbers hold, will be a major statement. It would not simply mean that same-sex marriage held by a majority vote, but that it did so in one of the blackest states in the country. I don’t think that says anything distinctive about African-Americans, except that in the climate, it seems exceptional to point out that black people are, in fact, not aliens permanently in the grip of pathology, but Americans.
I was skeptical that Obama would actually influence black opinions. I’m not sure he has. But I can’t rule it out. It’s clear that the trend was toward support. Maybe Obama gave it the final push. On a related note, preachers who thought they were going to use this to test, for better or ill, the most popular man in black America, should reconsider.

David Weigel, meanwhile, notes that even the fire-and-brimstone African-American preachers who are leading the repeal effort in The Free State have cooled their rhetoric down, and certainly aren’t daring to speak out against the President.

It’s way to early to tell what all of this means, of course. As Coates notes, the most significant thing about the poll is that it suggests that we may see the first failure of a referendum against same-sex marriage since the states started entertaining such measures. By itself, that would be a significant achievement. As for the question of the Africa-American vote, I’m not sure if you can say that any change that may be taking place is due to the President’s announcement, although I’m sure it may have played a role. Quite honestly, since we already know that the nation as a whole is undergoing a transformation of public opinion on this issue there’ s really no reason to believe that we would not see the same shift in opinion among African-Americans or any other racial or ethnic group.

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Campaign 2012, Gender Issues, Politicians, Race and Politics, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. While I’m glad there’s continued moverment in the right direction on this issue, I’m kinda disturbed that there’s a significant number of people who can be switched from one position to another that easily, because it means they could be flipped back just as easily.

  2. Jeremy R says:

    @Doug:

    Additionally, the day before the Obama announcement, African-American voters in North Carolina voted in favor of Amendment One by a 2-to-1 margin.

    This wasn’t exit polling was it? According to the Politico article:

    Public Policy Polling projected 60-65 percent of African-Americans would vote in favor of the ban.

    ‘Projected’ implies to me pre-election polling.

    Also, since you were making a case about where African-American’s were at, in general, before the President’s announcement, it would have been worth including the national polling from the Politico article:

    Yet a Pew Center poll released in April showed that the African-American community has softened in its opposition to gay marriage: In a 2008 survey, 67 percent of respondents said they didn’t approve of it, but in 2012 that number had dropped to 49 percent.

  3. You’re correct. I’ve updated the post to reflect that this was a pre-vote poll

  4. Jeremy R says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    This looks like the poll, from a bit over a month before the primary:
    http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/pdf/2011/PPP_Release_NC_032912.pdf

    PPP surveyed 1,191 likely primary voters on from March 23rd to 25th. The margin of error for the survey is +/-2.8%

    African-American’s were 15% of the sample, so 178-179 respondents?

  5. bobbo says:

    Once you start seeing referenda in which the pro-same-sex marriage position wins, I don’t think there will be much of a movement to reverse them. That’s because the trend is toward greater equality, and the NOM-types know it. Time and justice are not on their side.

  6. michael reynolds says:

    It’s a case of handwriting on the wall. Everyone has seen it, and now only a dwindling minority are so invested in their bigotry they’re willing to stick to their position.

  7. Jeremy R says:

    @Jeremy R:

    Wait, I’m wrong. There should be a poll from May 6th somewhere, as referenced here:

    http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/main/2012/05/nc-african-americans-shift-toward-same-sex-marriage.html#more

    Raleigh, N.C. – Just days after President Obama’s declaration of support for gay marriage, African Americans in North Carolina are showing a major shift in their views on the issue.

    55% of African-Americans believe same-sex couples should either be allowed to marry or form civil unions, up 11 points from the last statewide same-sex marriage poll, conducted May 6.

  8. Jeremy R says:

    @Jeremy R:

    This is it. May 6th, PPP:
    http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/pdf/2011/PPP_Release_NC_506.pdf

    African-American respondants, 55% for Amendment 1, 35% aganst, 10% not sure. So not quite 2 to 1.

  9. Delmar says:

    @michael reynolds: Are 30 states a dwindling minority?
    “People say one thing in a poll and vote differently”

  10. G.A. says:

    It’s a case of handwriting on the wall. Everyone has seen it, and now only a dwindling minority are so invested in their bigotry they’re willing to stick to their position.

    Funny that you use that terminology…..

    @michael reynolds: Are 30 states a dwindling minority?
    “People say one thing in a poll and vote differently”

    lol he and they don’t care what the people want, the majority has spoken, the brainwashing has failed so far…well they did get a lot of judges.

  11. @G.A.:

    When it comes to individual liberty, majority opinion is kind of irrelevant

  12. PJ says:

    @Jeremy R:

    African-American respondants, 55% for Amendment 1, 35% aganst, 10% not sure. So not quite 2 to 1.

    1026 likely voters surveyed.
    16% African Americans = 164 African Americans surveyed.
    55% answered no.

    A 95% confidence interval of that subgroup gives us 55% +/- 7.6 %, and that covers 50%, so from that poll you can’t, with a 95% confidence, say that African Americans support the amendment.

    Also, a 11% swing in such a small subgroup is within the margin of error.

  13. al-Ameda says:

    @G.A.:

    lol he and they don’t care what the people want, the majority has spoken, the brainwashing has failed so far…well they did get a lot of judges.

    How will you feel when the Supreme Court eventually rules that the equal protection and due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment are the basis of a constitutional right to Gay Marriage?

  14. Racehorse says:

    Perhaps Obama could have avoided making this into a major issue if he had just said that whatever people do in their own home is their business; and left it at that.

  15. michael reynolds says:

    @Racehorse: Well marriage isn’t something you do in your own home. And it isn’t looking like much of a major issue.

  16. Jenos Idanian says:

    It turns out now that Obama was pro gay marriage back in 1996. Then he was “opposed” to it for years. Now he’s “evolved’ back to his previous position.

    Whatever…

  17. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    No surprise really, as during his first term he has (1) worked to take down Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and (2) he has instructed his Justice Department to not aggressively defend the DOMA.

  18. It’s real simple. Either you preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States as well as traditional American values or you do not. To thwart a few attacks from the opposition I suggest the homosexual marriage idea and similar issues are nothing more than a political agenda from one more speical interest promoting the entitlement mentality

    In other words, the argument is someone has a point of view they deem their interests as a matter of ‘equality’ and therefor deserve certain rights. Where does that stop if we allow it?

  19. WR says:

    @Stanford Matthews: That’s right. If we don’t stop giving all these people special rights, pretty soon those uppity negroes are going to start demanding to ride in the front of the bus and sit on lunch counters. Better get out the fire hoses.

  20. anjin-san says:

    they deem their interests as a matter of ‘equality’ and therefor deserve certain rights.

    Umm, yea. The deserve the same rights I have. For example, the to marry whom one chooses.

  21. PogueMahone says:

    @Jenos Idanian:
    It turns out now that Obama was pro gay marriage back in 1996. Then he was “opposed” to it for years. Now he’s “evolved’ back to his previous position.

    Whatever…

    Yeah, you keep going back to this well.
    I think it is reasonable to assume that most here would agree that Obama approached the issue with politics in mind. It is also reasonable to assume that most here think that is wrong.
    But Obama now has endorsed marriage equality, which is consistent with his other policies.

    Jenos, you can keep banging that drum, but I don’t think it will get you anywhere.

    Cheers.

  22. PogueMahone says:

    @Stanford Matthews:
    It’s real simple. Either you preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States as well as traditional American values or you do not.

    Keep these dates in mind when you think about “traditional American values”…

    1863; 1865; 1920; 1923; 1948; 1954; 1964; 1972…

    Traditional American values includes a long, but much too slow, history of granting equal rights.

    Cheers.

  23. J-Dub says:

    It makes me think that maybe President Obama should have made this announcement a few weeks before the North Carolina vote.

  24. J-Dub says:

    @Stanford Matthews: I suppose it stops when everyone has equal rights.

  25. Rob in CT says:

    Seems to me that the “bully pulpit” has limited power, but what power it has lies is in the ability to nudge your own constituency. A Republican can nudge fellow Republicans. A good ‘ole boy from Arkansas might be able to nudge others like him (I’m thinking Clinton here, though I can’t think of a particular nudge by him). A black Democrat POTUS can nudge black democrats… and so forth.

  26. mantis says:

    @J-Dub:

    It makes me think that maybe President Obama should have made this announcement a few weeks before the North Carolina vote.

    That would have been preferable.