Are black Democrats less likely to vote for Mayor Pete because he's gay?  

Democratic presidential candidate South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks during the Democratic Presidential Debate at the Fox Theatre July 30, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. 20 Democratic presidential candidates were split into two groups of 10 to take part in the debate sponsored by CNN held over two nights at Detroit’s Fox Theatre. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Are African American members of the Democratic Party less likely to vote for presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg due to his sexual orientation?

Recently, there has been much discussion among liberals about whether the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who is in a same-sex marriage, can garner support from the black community in his race to capture the Democrat Party's nomination for president.

“The claim that black voters don’t support Pete Buttigieg or anyone else because of sexual orientation is nothing more than a racist trope,” Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David told Hill.TV on Thursday.

Paul A. Djupe, political science professor at Denison University, recently analyzed survey data regarding the opinions of various groups toward "homosexuals" (the wording used in the survey).

In a report published by the website Religion in Public on Wednesday, Djupe found that African American Democrats tended to have less favorable opinions of homosexuals than white and Hispanic Democrats, though warmer than Asian Democrats.

Djupe drew from data that he collected with Anand Sokhey and Amanda Friesen through Qualtrics Panels in 2016. He added that a smaller sample he gathered in 2018 was “almost identical” in its results.

The survey asked respondents who identified as Democrat, independent, or Republican to gauge how cool or warm they felt toward a group on a scale of 1 to 100.

“Black Democrat scores are 12 points lower than the scores from white Democrats. Black Democrats are also indistinguishable from black independents, though both express more warmth than black Republicans, who show the least warmth toward gay and lesbian Americans of any group in this analysis,” wrote Djupe.

Djupe also found that the a generational divide existed among African American women, with 18-year-old black women having about 40 points higher in warmth toward gays than 88-year-old black women.

“However, old and young black men are no different — the spread is seven points, which is an increase, but not a statistically significant one,” cautioned Djupe.

Buttigieg is a devout Episcopalian, but to show other ways black Democrats distinguish themselves from other Democrats, Djupe looked at feelings toward atheists. 

African Americans, regardless of political identification, had lower overall opinions of atheists compared to whites, Asians, and Hispanics, scoring well below 40 points for each party label, Djupe reported.

By contrast, African Americans held warmer feelings toward Christian fundamentalists, with black Democrats scoring around 60 points and black Republicans a little over 60 points.

The main thing that makes black Democrats different from other Democrats, Djupe added, is religion. 

"Why are blacks’ views about these important groups so distinctive? For once, we can’t rely on partisanship because blacks are overwhelmingly Democrats and still have cool views toward these Democratic groups (gays and lesbians and atheists). Instead, the simplest explanation is that blacks are more religious than other Americans — they attend church at higher rates and identify with some kind of religious group at higher rates than other racial groups (in these and other data)," he wrote. 

“Mayor Pete appears to have a heavy lift in front of him to convince black voters to support him,” concluded Djupe.

“Polls already indicate very weak support for him among African Americans, though I would not want to chalk that up solely to prejudice since there are arguments available about how his mayoralty has affected the black community.”

In July, CBS News reported that Buttigieg was struggling to court African American voters, especially in South Carolina. Pastor Joe Darby of Nichols Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church echoed that sentiment.

“Black church folks, particularly Southern black church folks, tend to be very progressive when it comes to issues of advocacy, equity, justice, that kind of thing but tend to [be] socially conservative on issues of the flesh ... there's slight discomfort that I've learned, with someone simply being LGBT,” said Darby, as reported by CBS News.

“It's unfortunate because he's got a good message ... and he does an excellent job in articulating his faith, so I think if folks look beyond the issue of [sexuality] and listened to what he said, they would probably be impressed [but] I don't know if a lot of folks are going to do that.”

Aside from questions over his same-sex marriage, Buttigieg has also garnered controversy over racial issues in South Bend, including a highly publicized shooting of a black man by a white police officer, according to NBC News.

NBC News reported in June that while South Bend had experienced an economic upturn during Buttigieg’s term, black unemployment remained high.

"The disconnect between the black community and the municipality under several administrations has been a festering problem in the greater South Bend area for more than 50 years," explained one resident to NBC. "It didn't start with Pete."

According to RealClearPolitics’ average of polls on the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, accessed Thursday morning, Buttigieg ranks fourth among Democratic candidates with 7.1 percent nationally.

From there, it was U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont in third place with 18.1 percent, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts in second place with 21.4 percent, and former Vice President Joe Biden in first place with 28.6 percent.

Follow Michael Gryboski on Twitter or Facebook

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