Gay Presidential Candidates Favored More Than Evangelical Contenders, New Poll Claims

A recent poll spelled bad news for the most right-leaning of presidential hopefuls. While evangelical Christian candidates are catering to their base by opposing same-sex marriage and gay rights, they aren’t winning over the rest of America with that campaign tactic. In fact, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey found that more Americans are comfortable with a gay or lesbian presidential candidate than a candidate who was an evangelical Christian. Sorry, Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum — the times they are a-changin’.

The poll asked respondents to evaluate a list of qualities in a potential presidential candidate, and rate whether they would “be enthusiastic,” “be comfortable with,” “have some reservations about,” or “be very uncomfortable with” a presidential candidate who possessed that particular quality in question. Turns out, Americans are much more open to having a gay or lesbian president than a president with evangelical Christian leanings.

While 61 percent said they would either “be enthusiastic” or “be comfortable with” a gay or lesbian presidential candidate, only 52 percent said the same about an evangelical Christian candidate. On the other hand, 37 percent of respondents said they would “have some reservations about” or “be very uncomfortable with” a gay candidate, while 44 percent were uncomfortable or unsure about an evangelical candidate.

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Moreover, while this allotment of opinions toward evangelicals remains more or less the same as in previous years when the same poll was conducted, the percentage of Americans who would be enthusiastic or comfortable with a gay candidate has jumped significantly. In 2006, only 43 percent were comfortable or enthusiastic about a gay candidate, compared to 61 percent in 2015.

This striking shift in perceptions of gays underlines a big problem for candidates who are running with a far-right agenda. While the conservative base may have remained more or less intact, as evidenced by the consistent polling numbers in the NBC/WSJ survey, the percentage of Americans who is alienated by or uncomfortable with right-wing candidates and values is growing.

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These survey results once again highlight just how tough of a spot conservative candidates are in for 2016. On one side, evangelicals are clamoring for candidates to focus on religious liberty and the preservation of “traditional” values. While on the other hand, the maintenance of such stances will only further alienate other voters — even including more moderate Republicans, and especially young voters.

Though some candidates may have tried, they can’t have it both ways. They’ll either have to catch up with the changes of the times, or pray that evangelicals will provide enough support to push them through the primary.

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