Americans comfortable with gay presidential candidate, poll finds

South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is exploring a Presidential candidacy speaks at the University of Chicago on February 13, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois.

A majority of Americans say they are comfortable with or enthusiastic about a gay presidential candidate, according to a survey.

A poll by NBC and the Wall Street Journal, published in March, found 68 percent are either enthusiastic (14 percent) or comfortable (54 percent) with a candidate who is gay or lesbian.

Seventy-five percent of American voters under 35 now say they would be enthusiastic or comfortable with a gay presidential candidate, according to the poll.

According to the poll, 56 percent of voters above the age of 65 are now either enthusiastic about or comfortable with the possibility.

A previous survey conducted in 2006 shows Americans’ attitudes towards a gay presidential candidate have changed drastically over the last decade.

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

Only 47 percent of those under 35 said they were comfortable with or enthusiastic about a gay presidential candidate in the 2006 survey. Thirty-one percent of voters above 65 said the same.

Mayor of South Bend, Indiana Pete Buttigieg

Mayor of South Bend, Indiana Pete Buttigieg (Official photo)

Gay mayor Pete Buttigieg announced his candidacy for US president earlier this year and in March, jumped to third place in polls in the key primary state of Iowa.

An Emerson poll released on Sunday (March 24) shows Buttigieg polling at 11 percent in the crucial state of Iowa, behind only former Vice President Joe Biden on 25 percent and Senator Bernie Sanders on 24 percent.

Buttigieg, who would become the first openly gay man to hold the office of US President if elected, started as a long-shot candidate in the Democratic primaries, but the Indiana mayor has built support in recent weeks.

The Emerson poll places Buttigieg ahead of many of the more established candidates in the race, with Senators Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker on 10 percent, 9 percent and 6 percent respectively.

The Presidential hopeful has served as the mayor of South Bend in Indiana since 2012, repeatedly clashing with the state’s then-governor Mike Pence over LGBT+ issues.

He came out in 2015 in a column in the South Bend Tribune during his second re-election campaign, writing: “Today it remains legal in most parts of Indiana (though not South Bend) to fire someone simply for being gay, and bullying still contributes to tragically high suicide rates among LGBT teens.”

He added: “Putting something this personal on the pages of a newspaper does not come easy. We Midwesterners are instinctively private to begin with, and I’m not used to viewing this as anyone else’s business.

“But it’s clear to me that at a moment like this, being more open about it could do some good. For a local student struggling with her sexuality, it might be helpful for an openly gay mayor to send the message that her community will always have a place for her.

“And for a conservative resident from a different generation, whose unease with social change is partly rooted in the impression that he doesn’t know anyone gay, perhaps a familiar face can be a reminder that we’re all in this together as a community.”