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Tony Perkins Imagines That Supporting Same-Sex Marriage Will Cost Obama The Election

May 22, 2012 5:57 pm ET by Carlos Maza

Extensive polling has found that President Obama’s decision to support marriage equality hasn’t hurt his chances for re-election, but Family Research Council president Tony Perkins is convinced that the election -- still half a year away -- has all but been decided.

In a May 21 column for, the anti-gay hate group leader, along with FRC fellow Ken Blackwell, argues that Obama’s support for same-sex marriage could “determine the outcome of the fall election” by alienating religious and African American voters:

In politics, numbers matter – and in sheer volume, Evangelicals, traditional Catholics, and rural voters that place a priority on the teachings of their faith far outdistance the cultural elites who advocate for the redefinition of marriage. 


Secondly, the support of the African American community is essential to Mr. Obama’s reelection – and that support has now substantially vitiated. 

If Obama’s announcement has awakened some new, politically active coalition of social conservatives, national polls so far haven’t taken notice. Statistician Nate Silver noted Monday morning that there had been a “dramatic zero-point shift in the polls since Obama came out for gay marriage”:

The Wall Street Journal made a similar observation this morning, reporting on a new poll that found that Obama’s endorsement has had a “limited impact on 2012 votes”:

Sixty-two percent of those surveyed said the candidates’ positions make no difference in how they might vote, while 17% said they are more likely to support Mr. Obama and 20% said they are more likely to support Mr. Romney.

About 30% of each man’s supporters say their candidate’s views reinforce their support for him, with only 7% or 8% of supporters for Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney respectively expressing concerns.

Some have even suggested that Obama may have benefited from his endorsement; Washington Post commentator Ezra Klein this morning noted that Obama has experienced a “gay marriage bump” in the polls since May 9th.

Similar polling results have been seen in the African-American community. According to The Wall Street Journal:

Jay Campbell, a Democratic pollster who worked on the poll, said the issue may have helped Mr. Romney shore up support with core Republican groups, including 43% of conservatives, who say his opposition reinforces their support for him, and 62% of evangelicals who say the same.

He noted that Mr. Obama doesn’t seem to have suffered any harm among African-Americans, as some had predicted. Seventy-seven percent of African-Americans who support Mr. Obama said his position makes no difference to them, with just 10% saying it gives them concerns. [emphasis added]

Those findings are largely in line with a May 14 Pew survey which found that African-Americans were the group least likely to be affected by Obama’s support for same-sex marriage. Of those respondents who were affected, more reacted positively than negatively to the announcement:

Perhaps realizing that no serious national poll supported any of their claims, Perkins and Blackwell were forced to rely on one of the anti-gay right’s favorite trump cards – every state that’s voted on the issue of same-sex marriage has decided to ban it:

Lastly, in the 32 states where voters have been allowed to express their views, all 32 have affirmed traditional marriage and rejected its same-sex redefinition. Even in liberal California, Prop. 8 won by only 600,000 votes in 2008 – with President Obama at the top of the Democratic ticket and carrying the state for his election. 

This talking point, while convenient, suffers from a number of serious flaws. Most notably, it merely describes where public opinion on same-sex marriage has been over the last decade, not where it will be by the time November 2012 comes around. As Silver noted earlier this month, every national poll shows growing support for marriage equality across the country:

This is the kind of “political analysis” that news networks should expect when they give people like Perkins -- who has spent years distorting the truth to advance his agenda -- a platform to discuss the 2012 election. Perkins may hope that Obama’s support for marriage equality will doom his reelection chances, but without credible evidence, his political commentary isn’t worthy of serious media attention.


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