Exit polling that canvassed nearly 16,000 people who voted in yesterday’s election found that 7% of the voters identified as LGBT, a record turnout. The surveys, by Edison Research for the National Election Pool, interviewed voters outside of polling places or early voting sites, or by phone. (The survey asked people to identify if they were gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender only.)
The turnout means that LGBT voters were over-represented at the ballot box, since an estimated 4.5% of the U.S. population is LGBTQ. In 2016, LGBT voters represented 5% of the electorate; in the 2018 midterm election, the LGBT turnout was 6%.
“Over the last three elections, the share of LGBTQ voters has continued to increase, solidifying our community as a key rising constituency that politicians must court,” Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David said in a statement. “In the most consequential election of our lifetimes, LGBTQ people showed our strength.”
Given the size of the Edison polling sample, the results surveyed nearly 1,100 LGBT voters. Such a large sample size means the results are more accurate of the population as a whole. (It’s possible the turnout number is actually a little larger, as some respondents may be reluctant to identify as LGBT to someone they don’t know.)
While the turnout is good news, the way the vote splits tells another story. The polling finds that Biden captured just 61% of the LGBT vote. That’s far less than the 76% that a GLAAD survey found last September. It’s also a lot less than the 77% that Hillary Clinton got in 2016. (The exit polling is still being updated, but it would take a massive shift to move Biden’s numbers much closer to Clinton’s.)
Even more astonishing, Trump won 28% of the LGBT vote in the exit polling so far despite his vile record. That’s double his 2016 total and far better than the paltry 17% he did in the GLAAD survey. However, the split between Biden and Trump only totals 89%. In the breakdown for other demographics, the totals between the two candidates is usually 98% or better. Since third-party candidates were not a factor in this presidential race, it’s unclear where the rest of the votes went or if some LGBT voters simply didn’t vote for president at all.
The motivating factor for Trump voters in general was ending pandemic-related restrictions. More than three-quarters of Trump supporters said getting the economy back on track was more important than trying to contain the virus (aka not killing people). While the vote is still being tallied, the polls indicate just how deeply divided the country remains and the challenge that Biden will face if he is finally able to declare victory.