A gay president? The majority of Americans believe the country isn’t ready

Poll of the week: A new Quinnipiac University poll finds that 70% of voters (including 86% of Democrats and independents who lean Democratic) say they are open to electing a gay president.

The same poll also discovered, however, that only 36% of voters (including 40% of Democrats and independents who lean Democratic) think the United States is ready to elect a gay president.

What’s the point: Right now, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg is one of the top 5 contenders vying for the Democratic nomination process. He is a married gay man.

These poll results suggest that most Americans — and Democrats in particular — are open to electing him president, so long as he meets other qualifications.

Yet, it seems like Buttigieg may run into electability concerns for the simple reason that Democrats don’t think (perhaps wrongly if you believe this poll) the country is ready. It’s also possible that some voters are not willing to admit to homophobia, while signaling it by saying essentially, “I’m ready, but others may not be.”

Either way, this poll suggests that Buttigieg might hit a wall in a Democratic primary in which voters are placing a high emphasis on the ability to beat President Donald Trump.

I should note that polling on whether the country is ready for a gay president differs significantly from polling on whether Americans thought the country was ready for a black president in 2007 or a woman president in 2015.

A Fox News poll taken after then-Sen. Barack Obama declared in February 2007 found that 69% of Democrats and 69% of voters thought the country was ready to elect a black president. In other words, electability was less of a problem for Obama then than Buttigieg now.
Voters were even more sure that the country was ready to elect a woman president after former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared a second bid for the presidency in April 2015. A CBS News poll conducted in the spring of that year showed that 89% of Democrats and 78% of all Americans said the country was ready for a woman president.

Interestingly, in all three instances, more voters said they were ready for a black, female or gay president than thought the country was ready for one.

But even if Americans are more tolerant of gay Americans than voters think they are, more are prejudiced against gay Americans than they were against black Americans in 2007 or women in 2014. Today, about a quarter of all voters (including 10% of Democrats) told Quinnipiac that they weren’t open to vote for a gay man for president. Back in 2007 and 2015, 5% or less of Americans and Democrats said they weren’t willing to vote for a qualified black person and woman to be president, respectively.

Prejudice against gay Americans is evident in other polling as well. About 35% of Americans openly admitted in the 2018 General Social Survey that they thought “homosexual sex relations” were almost always or always wrong. Even more than 25% of Democrats said it was almost always or always wrong.
Now, Americans have certainly become more comfortable with the idea of a gay president than they used to be. The percentage of Americans who say they would vote for a gay person for president is up 15-20 points since 2007, depending on the poll you look at. The percentage of Democrats who say they would vote for a gay person for president is up around 25 points.

Further, it’s possible that if Buttigieg becomes successful on the campaign trail, then Americans may become even more open to the idea of a gay president.

Still, it’s pretty clear from the numbers that there is still a portion of the electorate for whom Buttigieg’s sexuality is an issue.

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