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Poll: House Incumbents Who Oppose LGBT Rights Lose Support

Democrats want to target Garrett for his opposition to LGBT rights. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A set of polls conducted for the Human Rights Campaign found incumbents would imperil their re-election chances if they oppose a bill that bans discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.  

The polling, shared first with CQ Roll Call, found that in six districts held by Republicans, voters would be less likely to support the GOP incumbent if they opposed the Equality Act. A seventh poll conducted in a competitive seat held by a Democrat found the same result. The Equality Act is a bill introduced in July that would "extend existing non-discrimination laws to protect [LGBT] people."  

The polling comes as public opinion has shifted dramatically to support same-sex marriage and LGBT rights. The Human Rights Campaign — which advocates for the LGBT community — is focusing its effort on the Equality Act this cycle, after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage earlier this year.  

“Strong support from voters in Republican-held districts is another sign that members of Congress who won’t support the Equality Act risk being left behind next November," JoDee Winterhof, senior vice president of policy and political affairs at the Human Rights Campaign, said in a news release.  

In Florida's 26th District — held by freshman GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo — the poll found 11 percent of Curbelo's current supporters would be less likely to vote for him in 2016 if he opposed the Equality Act. That would be problematic for Curbelo, who is tied with his potential Democratic opponent, Annette Taddeo, with each capturing 38 percent of the vote, according to the poll. Curbelo is a top Democratic target in 2016, running in a district President Barack Obama won in 2012. His race is rated a Tilts Republican contest by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call.  

In Illinois' 3rd District — a seat held by Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski — 34 percent of his current supporters said they would be less likely to vote for Lipinski if he opposed the Equality Act. The poll found Lipinski has a lead against a generic Republican, 51 percent to 20 percent, in this district, which voted for Obama by a 14-point margin in 2012. The race is rated a Safe Democratic contest.  

In Illinois' 10th District — held by Republican Rep. Robert Dold — 18 percent of Dold's current supporters said they'd be less likely to vote for Dold if he opposed the Equality Act. The poll found Dold has a lead over his likely opponent, former Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider, 44 percent to 40 percent. The race — which is a top Democratic target in 2016 — is rated a Tossup contest.  

Over in Iowa's 3rd District — held by freshman GOP Rep. David Young — 14 percent of Young's current supporters said they'd be less likely to vote for Young if he opposed the bill. In a match-up against a generic Democrat, Young would capture 41 percent to the Democrats' 42 percent. Veteran Jim Mowrer announced this week he is seeking the Democratic nomination for the seat, which is rated a Tossup contest.  

In New Jersey's 5th District — held by longtime Republican Rep. Scott Garrett — 18 percent of his current supporters would be less likely to vote for Garrett if he voted against he Equality Act. Garrett garnered headlines last month when news broke that he refused to donate to the National Republican Congressional Committee, as the committee supported openly gay candidates. Still, the poll found Garrett starts with a strong edge over his likely Democratic opponent, Josh Gottheimer, leading 46 percent to 33 percent. The race is rated a Safe Republican contest.  

In Nevada's 4th District — held by freshman Republican Rep. Cresent Hardy — 13 percent of Hardy's current supporters would be less likely to vote for him if he opposed the Equality Act. The poll also found Hardy losing to an unnamed Democratic opponent, garnering 43 percent to the Democrats' 45 percent. Four Democrats are vying for the chance to take on Hardy next November in this district, that leans heavily Democratic in presidential years. The race is rated a Tilts Democratic contest — one of just two seats projected to flip party control with more than a year to go before Election Day.  

And in Wisconsin's 1st District — held by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan — 11 percent of his current supporters would be less likely to vote for him if he opposed the Equality Act. Ryan, however, appears unlikely to lose re-election in his heavily Republican seat. The poll found he leads a generic Democratic opponent 47 percent to 38 percent.  

All of the polls were conducted by Clarity Campaign Labs, and surveyed registered voters via automated phone calls. The margins of error range from 4 percent to 5 percent.  

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