Earlier today, ABC released an exclusive interview in which President Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage. Since his days as a candidate in 2008, the President has described his views as “evolving”, although he had previously indicated he was supportive of same-sex marriage. The announcement follows closely on Vice-President Biden’s statement Sunday that he is “absolutely comfortable” with same-sex marriage, which seemed at the time to be off-script for a member of the administration, but which now may be seen as an opening salvo in a planned media campaign on the issue.
The announcement will have an impact nationally, and is likely geared with an eye towards independent voters – expected to be critical in this year’s election – who now support same-sex marriage by a margin of 57% – 40% according to a recent Gallup poll, as well as LGBT voters who have been lukewarm to the President’s re-election campaign in part because of this issue (and despite the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, which many in the LGBT community felt should have been done sooner).
There is also historical reason to believe the announcement could drive voter turnout in November, as the 2004 GOP strategy to increase evangelical turnout by putting constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage showed. Eight years later, evangelicals could again be driven to the polls in part by opposition to the President’s stance, but they are likely to be met by an energized LGBT voting bloc. As any politician knows, increased turnout favors Democrats, and this could be part of the strategy.
Locally, electoral response could be mixed. Recent polling shows 48% of Californians support same-sex marriage legalization (PDF required). However, when presented with civil unions as an option (as California already allows by law), support drops to 43% – meaning support for the issue still cannot be guaranteed. In any event, California and especially Los Angeles County can be considered a safe haven for the President in November.
Where the issue could have a noticeable impact is in down-ticket races. In everything from City Council to Congressional races, areas where voting patterns are less predictable can turn on turnout by specific groups. In the new 66th Congressional District, for instance, increased conservative turnout in the beach communities driven by the issue could give Craig Huey a bump. The State Assembly races seem unlikely to be much affected, but at the city level, it would be unsurprising to find a favorite or incumbent falling due to unusually large turnout by a key constituency.