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Support a gay presidential candidate? Almost 70% of Americans say yes

Gay President Pete Buttigieg

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg shakes hands a recent appearance in South Carolina. Photo: Twitter.

An overwhelming majority of Americans support the idea of a gay or lesbian presidential candidate, according to a poll, which might benefit South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who identifies as gay and has launched an exploratory committee on a possible White House run in 2020.

Buttigieg’s popularity has grown in recent weeks, and the 37-year-old has said he is close to making a decision on whether he will run in the 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, which was first published in March, shows that Americans’ attitudes toward a gay or lesbian presidential candidate have changed drastically in the past 10 years.

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2019 survey findings

  • 54% of Americans said they would be comfortable with a gay or lesbian person running for president
  • 14% said that they would be “enthusiastic” about a gay or lesbian candidate

Those numbers are a stark contrast from a similar poll conducted in 2006.

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More than 50% of Americans either had “reservations” about or were “very uncomfortable” with a gay person running for president

A combined 43% of American voters said they were either “comfortable” with or “enthusiastic” about a gay or lesbian person running for president

Gay president support

The 2019 survey shows that multiple age groups have shifted their thinking on the question.

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  • 75 % of American voters under 35 say they would be enthusiastic or comfortable with a gay presidential candidate, compared to 47% in 2016
  • 56% of voters 65 and older are either “enthusiastic” about or “comfortable” with the possibility, compared to 31% in 2006

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Gay presidential candidates

If Buttigieg becomes a candidate, he will be the first openly gay person in the Democratic Party history to seek the presidential nomination.

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In 2011, Republican Fred Karger became the first openly gay person from either major political party in history to seek the presidential nomination. He was not invited to any of the televised Republican debates. Karger marched in Long Beach Pride Parade when he was on the ballot in California. Karger withdrew from the race after a 5th place finishing in the Utah primary, the final one in the 2012 cycle. 

Buttigieg gains popularity

Since launching his exploratory committee, Buttigieg has emerged as a popular figure. During a series of cross-country promotional trips and media appearances, the Buttigieg has talked opening about his Christian faith, abandoning the Electoral College for presidential elections,

Buttigieg has emerged as a popular figure in the months since launching his exploratory committee for a 2020 presidential run. The 37-year-old has called for numerous progressive reforms, including abandoning the Electoral College for presidential elections.

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Buttigieg raises $7 million

Buttigieg announced earlier in the week that he raised more than $7 million in the first quarter of this year.

The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll was conducted between February 24 and 27 and surveyed 900 adults. It has a margin of error of 3.3 percentage points.

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About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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