Viral on Twitter, But are the Polls Immune? A Response to Obama’s Endorsement of Same-Sex Marriage
On May 9th, 2012, President Obama made history. Or at the very least–he made Twitter history. In the first few hours after his statement of personal support for same-sex marriage, Obama’s official same-sex marriage endorsement tweet, which read “Same-sex couples should be able to get married” was retweeted a whopping 50,000 times! To get some perspective on this number, it is approximately half as many tweets as the number banked by the most retweeted post of all time: a promotional tweet by the esteemed Wendy’s restaurant in June of last year. Wendy’s got over 100,000 retweets, but retweets not paid for by Wendy’s itself were motivated because Wendy’s offered to donate 50 cents per tweet to charity. Bottom line–Obama’s endorsement is big news.
All this is evidence that Obama’s simple statement created quite a buzz. Tweeting about Obama in general reached incredible rates, with a peak tweet volume reported by Twitter of 7,347 tweets per minute occurring at 3:22 pm, just 4 minutes after Obama’s official endorsement tweet (quoted above), which he posted at 3:18 pm. Clearly, Twitter users considered this endorsement noteworthy.
Many important political figures, including Obama’s likely opponent, disagree. Although our BFF Rick Santorum urged Romney to use the same-sex marriage debate as a “potent weapon” against Obama, a statement backed by other conservative spokespeople like Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, and Gary Bauer, American Values President, Romney’s response was quite mild, boiling down to the simple reiteration of his previous stance. “My view is that marriage itself is between a man and a woman,” he reminded reporters, implying that Obama’s statement, unlike his own, had changed over time, and in this way alone did he use the issue against Obama.
This underwhelming response by Romney is also reflected in the polls. A poll by USA Today/Gallup on May 11 found that 60% of national adults said Obama’s support of same-sex marriage would make no difference in whether they voted for him. Furthermore, 51% of national adults said they approved of Obama’s position on the issue, most likely reflecting the approximate 50% of the population that supports same-sex marriage in general. USA Today/Gallup also was quick to point out that this 51% is very close to the 49% of Americans that support Obama overall, further indicating that Obama’s endorsement did not sway voters to even remotely the degree it swayed Twitter.
Although Obama’s support for our community is undeniably important, and definitely somewhat overdue, our president’s support by voters will likely not be drastically affected. Voters already in support of Obama are not likely to consider the same-sex marriage stance to be a deal breaker, and those who were intending to vote against Obama are unlikely to change their views based on a single platform–unless there is a significant population of Romney supporters who are also queer and engaged, but I highly doubt it (because who would date those gays, anyway??).
So although I’m glad same-sex marriage is almost a more popular Twitter topic than a Wendy’s promotion, Obama’s support in the polls seems to rely on more than same-sex marriage. Plus, as Rep. Barney Frank, the first openly gay member of Congress, pointed out: this may be the first time Obama officially stated his view, but his support for repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” and rejection of the Defense of Marriage Act were not exactly unbiased. As Frank puts it: “I can’t think there are many people who said, OK, well, I’m going to vote for Obama even though he said that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional and he said gay people can serve in the military. But if he says marriage, that goes too far.”