Record LGBT support for Democrats in midterms, NBC News Exit Poll shows


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By Tim Fitzsimons

Democratic candidates enjoyed strong support from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender voters nationwide on Tuesday, according to the NBC News Exit Poll. LGBT people made up 6 percent of the electorate in the midterms, and 82 percent of them cast their ballot for their district’s Democratic candidate for the House of Representatives, versus 17 percent for their district’s Republican House candidate. The exit poll also found LGBT voters supporting Democratic Senate and gubernatorial candidates in strong numbers.

LGBT Exit Poll graphic
NBC News

From a demographic perspective, LGBT voters were second only to black voters when it came to supporting Democrats in the midterms. Ninety percent of black voters supported their House district’s Democrat, while just 9 percent supported the Republican in the race. LGBT voters preferred Democratic candidates at higher rates than several other demographic groups that are traditionally thought of as Democratic-leaning, including Latino, young and college-educated voters.

HOUSE CANDIDATE SUPPORT IN 2018

  • Black voters: 90% Democrat, 9% Republican
  • LGBT voters: 82% Democrat, 17% Republican
  • Hispanic voters: 69% Democrat, 29% Republican
  • 18-29 year olds: 67% Democrat, 32% Republican
  • College graduates: 59% Democrat, 39% Republican

The percentage of LGBT voters who identify as Democrats has gone up over the last few election cycles, according to the NBC News Exit Poll. From 2014 to 2018, LGBT voters identifying as Democrats increased 13 points, while the percentage identifying as Republican dropped by 7 points. The percentage of LGBT voters identifying as independent remained relatively consistent from 2014 to 2016, then dropped by 8 points between 2016 to 2018 (Note: Prior to 2016, the NBC News Exit Poll did not ask voters about their gender identity, only their sexual orientation).

PARTY IDENTIFICATION OF LGBT VOTERS

  • 2018: 63% Democrat, 10% Republican, 27% Independent
  • 2016: 52% Democrat, 13% Republican, 35% Independent
  • 2014: 50% Democrat, 17% Republican, 33% Independent

When it comes to having a favorable opinion of the parties, the NBC News Exit Poll found 61 percent of LGBT voters only had a favorable opinion of the Democratic Party, 12 percent only had a favorable opinion of the Republican Party, 14 percent viewed neither party favorable and only 6 percent viewed both parties favorably.

Interestingly, the growing support for Democrats and shrinking support for independents does not mean that the self-reported ideology of the LGBT electorate has changed since the last midterm election in 2014. In fact, the NBC News Exit Poll found a nearly identical ideological breakdown amongst LGBT voters even though they increasingly chose Democratic candidates in 2018.

POLITICAL IDEOLOGY OF LGBT VOTERS

  • 2018: 53% liberal, 33% moderate, 14% conservative
  • 2014: 52% liberal, 34% moderate, 14% conservative

Gary Gates, a former research director at UCLA’s Williams Institute, which researches LGBTQ demographic trends, said “the LGBT community has consistently shown strong support for the Democratic Party” and characterized the 82 percent support in 2018 as a “high-water mark.”

“This isn’t surprising,” Gates said. “The hostility of the Trump administration to LGBT issues, including the attempted ban on transgender military service and efforts to reduce or eliminate measurement of sexual orientation and gender identity on federal surveys, may mean that LGBT voters feel particularly threatened right now by the President and his party.”

The NBC News Exit Poll found 53 percent of LGBT voters said one reason for their midterm vote was to express opposition to President Trump, 10 percent said it was to express support for him and 31 percent said Trump was not a factor in their midterm vote. Nearly 80 percent of them said the country is going in the wrong direction, and less than 20 percent said it’s on the right track.

ADDITIONAL DATA ON LGBT VOTERS

Age

  • 2018: 39% 18-29, 23% 30-44, 23% 45-64, 15% 65+
  • 2016: 33% 18-29, 30% 30-44, 26% 45-64, 11% 65+
  • 2014: 27% 18-29, 23% 30-44, 34% 45-64, 16% 65+
  • 2012: 37% 18-39, 28% 30-44, 27% 45-64, 8% 65+

Race

  • 2018: 61% White, 16% Black, 13% Hispanic, 10% Other
  • 2016: 66% white, 12% Black, 16% Hispanic, 6% Other
  • 2014: 74% white, 9% black, 14% Hispanic, 4% other
  • 2012: 56% white, 18% black, 16% Hispanic, 10% other

Gender

  • 2018: 39% men; 61% women
  • 2016: 47% men, 53% women
  • 2014: 51% men, 49% women
  • 2012: 49% men, 51% women

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