ANALYSIS-Trump woos LGBT+ Americans as polls hand gay vote to Biden

NEW YORK, Oct 29 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Supporters say Donald Trump is the most gay-friendly president in history yet U.S. policy experts point to his record and polls show much stronger LGBT+ support for Democratic rival Joe Biden.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans have traditionally voted Democratic in greater numbers and polls suggest Tuesday’s presidential election will be no different, despite efforts to woo the LGBT+ community with a run of “Trump Pride” rallies and gay-friendly speeches.

Far more striking, analysts say, is the fast-rising acceptance among conservative Americans of LGBT+ rights, nudging the right to rethink its long-held views on sex, sexuality and gender identity.

“What is historic is this shift in attitudes towards LGBT attitudes in the U.S. in such a short span of time, which forces Republican candidates and the Republican party to reconsider its position,” said Gabriele Magni, a professor of political science at Loyola Marymount University.

“It’s not just about LGBTQ people, but about people who care about lesbian, gay and transgender rights and who care about equality,” Magni told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Support among Americans for same-sex marriage, largely seen as synonymous with backing wider LGBT+ rights, has risen to 62% from 36% in 2007, according to the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI).

Democrats still back same-sex marriage in greater numbers, the PRRI found, but positive sentiment has risen much faster among Republicans than among Democrats in the past decade, albeit from a lower base.

And the White House knows that could translate into more Republican votes among LGBT+ Americans come election day.

TARGET THE MILLIONS

An estimated 9 million LGBT+ adults are registered to vote in the United States, according to the Williams Institute, a research center at the University of California.

Roughly three in four LGBT+ registered voters said they were voting for Biden, against 17% who said they backed Trump, according to a recent report by U.S. LGBT+ advocacy group GLAAD.

The findings were consistent with exit polls from the past half century of presidential elections, where Republicans won about a fifth of the LGBT+ vote.

Yet the White House has gone out of its way to court the gay vote this year, holding half a dozen rallies in marginal states in the past several weeks.

It is a daring break with past presidential politics, say analysts, as U.S. conservatives have largely avoided – or at times actively targeted – LGBT+ Americans to appease the ‘family values’ beloved by many Christian conservatives.

Things have not always gone swimmingly with the new move.

At a “Trump Pride” event last week, his daughter Tiffany Trump was the headline speaker yet stumbled over the LGBT+ acronym – mangling initials and missing out the ‘T’ for transgender – even as she trumpeted her father’s credentials.

“I know what my father believes in. Prior to politics, he supported gays, lesbians, the LGBQIIA+ community,” the president’s fourth child said.

“My father has always supported all of you,’” she

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