The LGBTQ community is a pretty consistent voting bloc for liberal politicians and policies — at least as far as the United States is concerned. But data shows that’s actually far from the case in other Western nations like the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Brazil. As it turns out, in these nations, conservative gays are on the rise, and gay men are actually more likely than the general electorate to support far-right and conservative parties and politicians.
A piece written by Samuel Huneke for the Los Angeles Review of Books cites the American LGBT community as the Democratic Party’s second most enthusiastic demo after African-Americans. In the November 2018 U.S. presidential election, 82% of LGBT people voted for Dem candidates, 17% for Republicans.
No big surprise there. But those percentages are not the same in other Western nations.
“In virtually no other country have LGBT groups and leftist parties forged such a durable or fruitful alliance,” Huneke says. “In many other Western countries, right-wing and virulently homophobic parties enjoy considerable support among gay voters.”
Take a look at Brazil: In October 2018, Jair Bolsonaro — a man who has called himself a “proud homophobe” and has said he “would be incapable of loving a gay son” — won the nation’s presidency. He took office on Jan. 1, 2019. But despite his repeated anti-LGBT sentiments, nearly one-third of LGBT Brazilians voted for him. According to local outlets, many did so because they believed his blatant homophobia was an act.
And France: The country’s May 2017 presidential election saw far-right candidate Marine Le Pen face off against center-left candidate Emmanuel Macron. The former’s National Front party called for abolishing marriage equality, but still a “significant slice” of Le Pen’s support came from gay people. We actually know this because a poll Hornet conducted of its French users in February 2017 found that 45% of gay men aged 18–29 planned to vote for Le Pen over Macron. According to previous polls, that number is larger than the percentage of heterosexual people who said they’d vote for Le Pen.
And in Germany: A 2016 survey Huneke cites found that support by gays and lesbians for the far-right Alternative for Germany party was higher than support for Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union. (Contrasting that, however, another poll, from 2017, shows only 2.7% support for the Alternative for Germany party by LGBT voters.)
And Australia: Gay men vote for the country’s Liberal and Labour parties in the same proportions as straight people, meaning the sexual and gender identities of gay Aussies seem to not affect their votes.
Key in Huneke’s findings is that in these non-U.S. Western nations, when you look at gay men alone (as opposed to the more-encompassing LGBT community), “gay men were, on average, more likely than the general electorate to support the conservative or far-right party.” And while that’s likely not the case in America, where gay men are more progressive their other-Western-nation counterparts, we also don’t know for sure because such little polling is done of gay men by themselves.
Huneke breaks down what’s happening — and why — here:
It seems that gay men in other countries are far more likely to support right-wing parties than are LBT, and even sometimes straight, voters. That makes a certain degree of sense, as Michael Segalov wrote in The Independent in 2017. Gay men have begun to “throw those with less status under the bus to cling onto their newfound privilege.” Endowed with the right to marry and no longer encumbered by sodomy laws or employment blacklists, gay men have begun to vote more like men, full stop. Lesbians and trans individuals, who still face considerable prejudice and even legal barriers, have more to gain by supporting left-wing parties and more to lose should the right triumph.
As for why gay Americans haven’t flocked to conservative politicians in the same way they have outside the United States, Huneke cites a few reasons: the homophobic Christian Right, the birth of the gay civil rights movement and the U.S. government’s neglectful response to AIDS, among them. (Read more about that in his lengthy but well-worth-it read.)
And he cites with specificity why far-right parties of non-U.S. nations are able to get queer voters on their side. Right-wing parties in Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany and Austria (among others) have “softened their language on gay issues, advanced the careers of gay politicians, and actively courted LGBT voters by painting their Islamophobia as a bulwark protecting queer people from supposedly homophobic Muslims.”
So LGBT voters in the non-U.S. Western world are more susceptible to far-right politicians’ fake-pro-gay bloviating, even when a vote for said conservative is a vote against their own interests and civil rights.
In the end, Huneke paints a grim portrait of the future of America’s LGBT voters — namely, one that looks a lot like LGBT voters of these other Western nations. As he says upon examining the totality of his research, “LGBT people — especially gay men — are not inherently progressive voters. Give them the chance and they will vote for xenophobia, for racism, and for misogyny.”
Only if LGBT voters keep their wits about them — able to identify homophobic policies even when delivered with a pro-gay veneer, able to point out queer candidates who despite how they self-identify are not good for the greater LGBTQ community, able to shrug off their inherent privilege (in the case of gay men specifically) — will the entire LGBTQ umbrella secure a seat at the proverbial table.