The first set of polls released since President Obama embraced gay marriage show a sizable bloc of the electorate with negative views of that decision, although most voters say it has not affected their view of the president.
A CBS News-New York Times survey, released on Monday night, showed that 26 percent of people were less likely to vote for the president because of his policy shift, while 16 percent were more likely. In a Pew Research Center survey, 25 percent said they viewed Obama less favorably because of his gay marriage position, 19 percent more favorably. The Pew poll showed a sizable, if not surprising, age gap: 42 percent of voters over 65 said the decision made them view the president more unfavorably. (Gay marriage is less popular among older voters)
There is little sign of a backlash among black voters: 68 percent in the Pew poll said their view of Obama is unchanged, 19 percent said they now view him more favorably, while 13 percent said less favorably. (At the same time, black voters have not suddenly embraced gay marriage. The NYT poll showed 45 percent of white Democrats support gay marriage, while only 36 percent of black Democrats do)
It’s not exactly clear what electoral impact this will have. Among independents, who often decide which candidate wins the elections, Pew showed an even split, with 19 percent viewing Obama more favorably and an equal number less so.
In both polls, the majority of voters said this would not change their position on Obama at all. And many of the voters who strongly disliked the president’s shift on gay marriage may have been people who would have voted against him anyway.
But this election is likely to be very close; a tiny dropout in support could determine the winner. And Obama struggled in 2008 among voters over 65, who are a powerful bloc in some key states, such as Florida.
Follow Perry Bacon Jr. on Twitter at @perrybaconjr