Dr. Gary Segura: “Why Latinos are Ahead of Barack Obama on Marriage Equality”

Excellent post on Obama and marriage by Gary Segura.

First, some background on Gary: He’s a professor at Stanford. Actually, he’s Professor of American Politics and Chair of Chicano/a Studies in the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity at Stanford. Gary is also a principal in the polling firm, Latino Decisions. And, he has been an expert witness the major marriage cases, including the Prop. 8 case. For anyone who saw the “8, The Play,” Segura is in it. He was played by James Pickens, Jr. (you can see the Segura segment starting at 1:01:14) There’s an article about Segura’s Prop. 8 testimony here. Among others, he also testified in GLAD’s successful anti-DOMA case, the Golinski case (the decision cited his testimony several times) and in Edie Windsor’s DOMA case, which has yet to be decided.

So, Segura is an expert in both Latino and LGBT politics. His analysis further undermines the current conventional wisdom about the impact of supporting marriage, noting “Latinos are far more liberal on marriage equality than stereotypes might suggest.” Along with young voters and African-Americans, Latinos are a key target groups for the Obama campaign so this is important information. And, being a pollster and a professor, Gary has the numbers to back it up. From Segura:

Opponents of marriage equality are well-financed and powerful. But for President Obama, fretting about movement conservatives, evangelical voters, and the National Organization for Marriage is silly, of course, since they are unlikely to support the president no matter his views on marriage and have already concluded that he is not on their side on this issue. Rather, cost considerations should be focused only swing electorates, and on groups from which the president draws significant support. Latinos are one such group. Could support for marriage equality hurt the president among Latino voters?

Hardly. For starters, Latinos are far more liberal on marriage equality than stereotypes might suggest. In our November, 2011, benchmark poll for Univision News, we found a plurality of Latinos supporting marriage equality—43%, and another 13% supporting civil unions. Opposition to government recognition of lesbian and gay relationships was only about a quarter, at 26%. The remainder were unsure.

These numbers are not a slam-dunk. Some messaging to Latino voters is required by proponents of marriage equality. But neither do they portend any ominous news for the Obama campaign. More recently, in California, the Field Poll found outright majority support for marriage equality among Latinos in California, at 53%.

Moreover, Latino Decisions has never found social issues—abortion, marriage equality and the like—ever polling more than 2% when registered Latino voters are asked about which issues matter most when they vote. The history of Latino support for Democrats, despite more conservative views on abortion rights, illustrates how little impact such views have on the group’s voting behavior.

The president and his advisors are, no doubt, considering carefully how much evolution is optimal for his reelection. If he chooses to continue espousing this somewhat embarrassing dodge, he does so at the risk of looking foolish or being placed on the spot during the fall campaign. However, there is no evidence that embracing marriage equality will cost him votes among the important Latino voting bloc.

I excerpted quite a bit, but it’s worth reading the whole post. As I said, Gary is an expert on Latino politics. His polling firm, Latino Decisions, has become the go-to source for info. on Latino voters. This is another valuable resource.

Obama said of marriage on October 27, 2010, “The one thing I will say today is I think it’s pretty clear where the trendlines are going.” With Segura’s analysis, it’s pretty clear where that trendline is going with Latinos, too.


On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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