Huge difference in attitudes toward homosexual behavior among Democrats by race


There has been a little hullabaloo in the media about lack of support for Pete Buttigieg in the black community due to the skepticism of his identity as a married gay man. My own prior is to assume that there will be some differences in attitudes, but it will be modest. I come to this position because when I’ve looked at survey data black Americans and white Americans aren’t as different as the stark caricatures make them out to be. Contrary to Republican assertions black Americans are not really socially conservative, though they are more moderate than white liberals (what’s really going on usually is that white liberals are very socially liberal).

So I decided to look in the GSS for the years 2016 and 2018 at a variable with large sample sizes, HOMOSEX. It asks about whether people think “sexual relations between two adults of the same sex” are:

– always wrong
– almost always wrong
– sometimes wrong
– not wrong at all

You can see the result above. The difference in attitudes is huge. I added white Republicans and Hispanic Democrats, and you can see black Democrats are even further in their views than these groups.

Though the sample sizes are smaller when you go into the cross-tabs, here are some demographic slices. Notice that white Democrats born after 1984 almost all think that homosexual sex between adults is “not wrong at all.” In contrast, younger black Democrats are divided. It is less black Americans are homophobic, and more that white Democrats have moved very fast and very far on this once polarizing social issue.

Finally, I ran a logit regression with a dummy variable. It looks like religion and education doesn’t explain all the difference. Probably due to how social consensus on political issues emerges, the separation of black and white social networks has caused this split, as the consensus in the latter has not spread to the former (among Democrats).

Variables for replication: race, partyid(r:1-3;4;5-7)*, hispanic, degree, cohort.

Tables below

White DemocratBlack DemocratWhite RepublicanHispanic Democrat
Always Wrong15594829
Almost always wrong2455
Sometimes wrong7366
Not wrong at all76334160
Born 1985 and later
White DemocratBlack Democrat
Always Wrong143
Almost always wrong12
Sometimes wrong45
Not wrong at all9449
Born 1975 and earlier
White DemocratBlack Democrat
Always Wrong2169
Almost always wrong35
Sometimes wrong82
Not wrong at all6723
With college degrees
White DemocratBlack Democrat
Always Wrong555
Almost always wrong12
Sometimes wrong73
Not wrong at all8740
Without college degrees
White DemocratBlack Democrat
Always Wrong2261
Almost always wrong35
Sometimes wrong73
Not wrong at all6831

* I merged Democrat and Republican categories of intensity.

9 thoughts on “Huge difference in attitudes toward homosexual behavior among Democrats by race

  1. This is a bit of an aside, but the whole “Blacks and Latinos are really socially conservative” thing that Republicans have is very irritating, because I’ve looked into it myself (albeit not the GSS) and outside of LGBT issues and abortion, both groups tend to be left to left of center on…basically everything.

    I mean, what is a “social issue” in U.S. parlance? Generally speaking it’s defined as everything which doesn’t encompass economic issues or foreign policy. This is inclusive of the death penalty, gun control, police brutality, criminal justice reform – etc. All of these are issues where both groups are way to the “left” of the median U.S. voter. Then there’s all of the environment-related issues, where polling is relatively limited, but both groups broadly seem to be left-of-center.

    I’ve always wondered how much of it is just a talking point by Republicans to seem like they might be more competitive among both groups in the future, and how much of it is just motivated reasoning.

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  2. You can add gender roles (flexible / equal vs rigid, structured), patriotism, ethnic ingroup loyalty, general religiosity in public sphere to that list. Criminal justice is not a great one because there is the whole “Death penalty is bad because my groups high murder rates are because………. we were framed!” ingroup bias among b+h. (Or similar “Systemic bias means we’re not really responsible!” gibberish).

    I don’t think it comes from anything to do with Republicans wanting to play up their competitiveness among b+h (they know these groups would never vote in numbers for the “white” party), more a political tactic of pointing out hypocritical willingness of White Dems to make these banner issues while turning a blind eye to them among b+h “allies”. Galvanizes the base who “know” that White Dems mostly pretentious power craving fake-Woke hypocrites anyway…

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  3. @Karl Zimmerman
    “outside of LGBT issues and abortion, both groups tend to be left to left of center on…basically everything.”

    To be honest though, those two issues define the popular understanding of what it means to be left wing or right wing in the 21st century.
    Outside of those two issues (and maybe legalized pot), you’d find most evangelicals are pretty left of center too. Particularly on undocumented migrants, criminal justice reform and healthcare.
    Heck, and just look at Trump and criminal justice reform. He’s reversing a lot of the Clinton measures that Barack ignored. The roles are changing.

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  4. Social Conservatism: «hypocritical willingness of White Dems to make these banner issues while turning a blind eye to them among b+h “allies”»

    This talk about “hipocrisy” and “blind eye” does not make much sense – the pro-abortion and pro-LGBT laws the Democrats pass apply equally in the black and Hispanic neighborhoods.

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  5. «To be honest though, those two issues define the popular understanding of what it means to be left wing or right wing in the 21st century.»

    And Medicare 4 All? At least, looking from this side of the Atlantic, it seems to be the main left-wing talking point in the USA these days.

    Well, and immigration (these being also very relevant in Europe).

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  6. You can add gender roles (flexible / equal vs rigid, structured), patriotism, ethnic ingroup loyalty, general religiosity in public sphere to that list.

    No, I don’t think those really count in the U.S. as being “social issues” because they don’t tend to motivate electoral politics. Or rather, I should say people don’t tend to use them as excuses for voting the way they do, because I now believe most people choose their party largely due to unconscious “groupness” related reasons, and come up with after-the-fact rationalizations (taxes, guns, abortion, etc) to explain that affiliation.

    Something like flag burning relates to patriotism, and is on the outer edge of being a “social issue” in the political sense, but it’s been largely dormant since the 1990s.

    Heck, and just look at Trump and criminal justice reform. He’s reversing a lot of the Clinton measures that Barack ignored. The roles are changing.

    Criminal justice reform is an odd one, because although it has been supported by the left wing for quite some time due to civil liberties/social justice related concerns. But the right wing is now turning against the prison-industrial complex in large part because it just saves a lot of money, allowing for the possibility of further tax cuts. It makes me wonder if the right wing in the U.S. will eventually turn on the military-industrial complex as well.

    I find black attitudes regarding gun control most interesting though. Given a lot of rural white pro-gun sentiment is often argued due to being distrustful of government authority, you would think there would be a strong strain of it in the black population as well, due to the high levels of distrust in the police, legal system, and criminal justice system. However, polling shows the opposite, with black people typically the demographic most supportive of stricter gun laws.

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  7. However, polling shows the opposite, with black people typically the demographic most supportive of stricter gun laws.

    “Gun violence” in the U.S. overwhelmingly and disproportionately affects blacks (black-on-black, to be exact). It seems to me that blacks want to take guns away from other black people (specifically young black males).

    By the way, while blacks consistently avow greater anti-homosexual attitudes in surveys, their actual voting is consistently toward pro-homosexual politicians. I think there is a significant stated vs. revealed preference gap going on with blacks in regards to morality. Or other issues are of such greater salience to them that such avowed moral stances disappear where the former are involved.

    That said, Mr. Khan is absolutely right that white liberals have become strongly leftist or “woke” over the past decade. I always joke that white liberals seem to care about black (or LGBT) issues more than blacks (or LGBT people) do. Ostensibly, in any case.

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  8. @ Miguel, indeed the laws, to the extent anyone actually legislates to control social issues, do. Though is the application equally intensive? But the rah-rah cheerleading and outgroup scapegoating is certainly focused differently.

    @ Karl, you’re changing tack here from your question “How are they socially conservative?” slightly to “How are they socially conservative on things which are coded as salient social issues in politics?”

    Which is somewhat circular, because of course the Dems will not want things which would fracture their coalition to be coded as “salient social issues in politics” which “motivate voting”, even if they are things B+H are socially conservative on. Your main question was why White Republicans state that that these groups are socially conservative, after all, and the answers are probably “Because they are on a wider variety of issues than you’ve picked” and “To ‘expose’ White Dem hypocrisy”.

    I don’t think black attitudes on gun ownership are that complex necessarily – it is likely to be driven by how trustworthy the people who own guns who you know are vs the government. I expect that most black folk are aware that other black folk who own guns are less trustworthy with them than the police or military, while for whites this is less the case (even if whites trust the police and military more, on the whole, they perhaps trust them relatively less).

    the right wing is now turning against the prison-industrial complex in large part because it just saves a lot of money,

    The flip side is visible in the United Kingdom, where the Left today continually waxes against police cuts (which were instituted by the Tory Party, due to austerity, e.g. saving money) and which have engendered a smaller police force. All their supposed concerns about an over-policed population are forgotten, simply opportunistically grabbing an excuse to exploit public fears of crime to push for further state expansion.

    (As you’d expect, the Left being in practice essentially the power craving mouthpiece of a coalition of bureaucrats, union bosses and the academy, zero real compassion or genuine concern for the civil liberties of the individual against the judiciary and police, ultimately merely wanting a “win”, at any cost, for a larger state which they can then administrate).

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  9. «To be honest though, those two issues define the popular understanding of what it means to be left wing or right wing in the 21st century.»

    The environment/pollution, gun control, drug legalization, and occasionally wars when the neocon wing dominates the Republican Party are also important.

    Getting back to the OP, my guess is the rapid shift in white Dems is also happening in somewhat delayed form among black Dems and white Republicans. I’m guessing black Dems will shift first despite the edge Republicans currently have, but we’ll find out.

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