Whites are mostly negative about Obama, as consistently only around 30% approve of him (despite the Nobel Peace Prize). This 30% figure is far from the whole story. Wide differences in outlook on Obama within the White population are worth considering.
Modern polling allows us to open up a window onto, and look closely at, these differences. There are some surprises.
Using data collected by Reuters’ scientific polling in 2014 and 2015 (for a sample group of over 50,000 Whites), I present an in-depth analysis of White attitudes towards Obama:
1. Whites’ Views on Obama by Age Group, Sex, and Political Involvement
2. Whites’ Views on Obama by Religious Identification (and Race)
3. Whites’ Views on Obama by Sexual Orientation [This Post]
4. Whites’ Views on Obama by Income
5. Whites’ Views on Obama by Marital Status and Children
6. Whites’ Views on Obama by Education Attained
In this post:
Summary of Key Points
No Gender Gap at all among White heterosexuals. Yes Gender Gap among LGBTs — a surprise. LGBTs more pro-Obama, but Gay men most of all. Tangentially, possible evidence in this data for the social prestige of male homosexuality by the mid-2010s.
No Gender Gap at All Among Heterosexuals
“The Gender Gap” is one of the most consistently implied ideas in U.S. political discourse, with it claimed that women (as a whole) are significantly to the left of men. The “Women’s Vote” is often talked about on the basis of this. (This was discussed in the first post in this series as well: White Views on Obama by Age Group ans Sex.) In this data, no gender gap is present at all among White heterosexuals.
The “Core Approval” metric shows a slight gap (still within the margin of error) but it shows men more supportive of Obama. Be careful reading this data. This apparently says that straight White men support Obama more than straight White women but this is solely because women have “mixed feelings” more than men. The “Widest Approval” metrics for the two groups are the same, and the weighted approval scores are within a tenth of a point. In a word, again, there is no gender among straight Whites.
The LBGT Gender Gap
Surprisingly, there is a gender gap among LGBTs. White Gay men support Obama by around ten points more than White Lesbian women in this data. (Note: Given the amount of identity politics circling around this particular group in the past ten years, surely you will allow me to capitalize “Gay”). Given relatively small sample sizes for “Gay” and “Lesbian” in this dataset, margins of error are a little wide (up to +4.8% Lesbians; +3.5% Gays). Even so, the two margin-of-error ranges do not touch.
I went back into the data to look at a full two years of data — January 20th 2013 to January 20th 2015 — for much bigger sample sizes of White Gay men and White Lesbian women. The results are about the same. Here is that data:
Conclusion: We can say with a high degree of certainty that Gay men support Obama more than Lesbian women. I will leave it to others to speculate about explanations, reasons, how long it may have been the case, and so on. But this is the data.
Homosexuals May Cause “Opinion Gaps”
In “White Support for Obama by Age Group and Sex, it was shown that young White men in late 2014 seem to have supported Obama more than young White women. This may completely be an artifact of higher support for Obama among LGBT men than LGBT women, as younger men are more likely to identify as LGBTs.
In any event, when polls do show “gaps”, the invisible and neglected influence of LGBTs may be a partial explanation. Consider “single women, never married” vs. “married women” (the Marriage Gap). (This data will be presented later, in #5 in this series.) A good portion of that gap (not all) is attributable directly to LGBT women who form a substantial portion of the never-married demographic. We tend to leap to conclusions about straight single women. The leapt-to conclusions may even be true, but maybe not as true as we assume. With data as precise as the Reuters polling data here, we can deflate any artificially-inflated gaps and look at the true gaps for what they are.
The Social Prestige of Male Homosexuality (Possible Evidence for)
To be a Gay male is to have a distinct kind of high status in today’s USA. Much editorializing in the Gay Marriage debate heyday in the 2000s boldly painted Gays as a saintly, persecuted minority, as low status outsiders in need of all our sympathy. Self-identification may tell the real story. In this randomized sample group, a majority of male LGBTs (53%) identified as Gay, while only 31% identified as bisexual, whereas with women it was almost the reverse. A distinct minority of the polled female LGBTs (23%) identified as Lesbians, with a majority of 56% as bisexual. (The rest said “Other Orientation”).
If being a Gay male were actually anything close to the beleaguered, shamefully low-status identity we were told just a few years ago, we might expect the proportion of male LGBTs choosing “Gay” as their identity to mirror women’s. Of course, among individuals with what we once called “deviant sexuality” (deviating from the heterosexual norm), there is some choice as to what to identify as.
In other words, there is support here (in this data) for a contention that “Gay” is a social construct, and a social construct which enjoys a distinct position of privilege in the West at the present (i.e. it is chosen as an identity by a majority of those men with “deviant sexuality”).
Women (including Lesbians) have mixed feelings much more often than do men (including Gays), in terms of answering this poll question. This remains consistent across nearly all demographic subgroups — a subdemographic’s women will report “mixed feelings” around twice as often as the men of the same subdemographic. The same generally applies to “lean approve / lean disapprove”. Interestingly, this also holds for LGBTs. Compare each subdemographic’s data here for “lean” and “mixed feelings” and you will see that even Lesbians have mixed feelings a lot more than men do, even Gay men.
A small share of White men and women claimed they had “[an]other sexual orientation”, whatever that means. Unsurprisingly, the members of this confusing and confused group said they have “mixed feelings” about Obama at (by far) the highest rate (20%+) of any demographic under any category — economic, social, or political.
[End of Analysis / Commentary]
This is the combined data for all Reuters polls, conducted in the six months up to January 20th, 2015, which yields a huge sample size of 50,540 White Americans. (In this post, an additional analysis between the dates January 20th 2013 and January20th, 2015 was done to get a bigger sample size for gays and lesbians.) Reuters polled all races, but its online database allows us to look at only data for Whites if we so wish. This large sample group yields a small margin of error for most demographic subsets. Two other benefits of this data are: (1) Lots of demographic breakdowns are available, and (2) a continuum of possible responses is provided rather than a clumsy “approve / disapprove” binary. The choices are: “Strongly Disapprove” — “Somewhat Disapprove” — “Lean Disapprove” — “Mixed Feelings” — “Lean Approve” — “Somewhat Approve” — “Strongly Approve”. This allows for more precise results. All this can be recreated at polling.reuters.com.
The three calculations on the right side of each chart are to help make sense of the data:
- “Core Approval” is the sum of a demographic’s “Somewhat Approve”, “Strongly Approve” percentages. So if Group A has a “Somewhat Approve” share of 15% and a “Strongly Approve” share of 10%, the “Core Approval” will be 25%.
- “Widest Approval” is Core Approval with “Lean Approve” and half of “Mixed Feelings” also added. Taking half probably as good a way as any to deal with the people with mixed feelings.
- Weighted Approval. This is a weighting of each demographic’s scores according to the scores on the charts. To account for intensity of feeling, “Strongly Disapprove” is weighted at -0.5 and “Strongly Approve” is weighted at 10.5.
Other demographic breakdowns by: