There's little doubt that President Obama's ability to rally support from previously apathetic voters won him the election in 2008. His enthusiasm for hope and change brought young progressives out in force, not only as voters but as campaign workers and event attendees. Since then, however, many of Obama's original supporters have reported feeling let down by their President. Will his strong stance on marriage equality be the key to bringing his disappointed constituents back out of the closet and into the campaign for 2012?
A Gallup poll conducted immediately after the president's first impassioned speech in favor of gay marriage found that for 60% of adults, the issue was unlikely to impact their vote in November.
The results make sense. Americans who support equal rights and other liberal values were already preparing to cast a vote for President Obama regardless of his position, while hard-line conservatives were already unwilling to do so.
More important than a simple tally of votes is a question of enthusiasm and practical support. Obama won his first presidential election in no small part because of his ability to generate energy in place of apathy. Rather than rallying behind him as “the lesser of two evils,” a phrase that disgruntled voters often trot out during election season, he developed zealous backing from Americans who seemed to feel a genuine respect and excitement toward both the man and his campaign.
According to OhMyGov analytics, Obama's support for marriage equality may be just the thing to reinvigorate a disappointed contingent of Democrats and secure the President another four years in the White House.
We've now had a little over a month to monitor the man Newsweek dubbed “The First Gay President,” and we can see some trends evolving around him.
The first notable change is that every time Obama talks about gay rights, he finds himself at the heart of an explosion in the Twitterspere. The May 9th ABC News interview in which he professed his support for marriage equality resulted in the highest number of Twitter mentions he had received all year.
Though the numbers have fluctuated since, they have consistently floated well above where they sat before he became the first president ever to say, “Same-sex couples should be able to get married.”
The statement was well-received among his target population. OhMyGov sentiment analyses reveal an increase in positive tweets about the President following his big announcement, a trend that has continued over the past month with spikes occurring when he announced June 2012 as Pride Month and again last week after his rousing performance at a Beverly Hills LGBT Leadership Council event.
Conversely, the president received the fewest negative Twitter mentions in May immediately following his ABC News announcement, indicating that perhaps conservatives don't care as much about this particular issue as we may have predicted.
In fact, although his Gallup approval rating has held steady around 47% since May, sentiment analysis on Twitter indicates that President Obama's statements about same-sex marriage and gay rights seem to draw a minimal amount of negativity from his critics - at least on social media.
Now that we've had a month to consider what this endorsement means to the American people, both presidential candidates can start thinking about how to proceed into November. For the president, this issue has the potential to be a boon for fundraising and campaign building over the next several months.
“Fired up and ready to go!” was one of several rallying cries heard during the 2008 election cycle, and it was an accurate expression of the sincere, hopeful enthusiasm Obama's supporters felt in anticipation of his presidency. He must find a way to inspire that same earnest excitement in order to win a second term. Marriage equality may be just the springboard he needs to redefine himself as a champion of the left and reinvigorate apathetic voters.