New Study Tracks Trends Among Canada's LGB Voters

Eric Guntermann

A new study co-authored by a UC Berkeley political scientist sheds light on political trends in Canada's lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) population. Titled "The Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Vote in a More Tolerant Canada", the forthcoming article in the Canadian Journal of Political Science examines the effects of political mainstreaming on what has traditionally been a solid left-of-centre voting block. Its authors are Eric Guntermann, a Banting Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Political Science at UC Berkeley, and Edana Beauvais, an assistant professor of political science at Simon Fraser University.

It's no surprise that lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) individuals overwhelmingly vote left-of-centre, and are on average less conservative than straight people. LGB policy priorities have traditionally been associated with progressive politics, and left-of-centre individuals were more likely to identify as LBG. These communities were traditionally very cohesive by virtue of forming around a strong shared experience of discrimination and persecution.

Professor Edana BeauvaisIn recent decades, however, same-sex relationships have achieved widespread acceptance throughout Canada, with opponents being relegated to the political fringe. LGB political groups have also achieved many of their policy goals, most prominently same-sex marriage. Have these societal changes led to movement in individual political preferences? Guntermann and Beauvais hypothesize that the mainstreaming of LGB rights would lead to lower cohesion as a politically distinctive group.

The study partly confirms this expectation. While activism for same-sex marriage is historically tied to left-wing politics, the outcome of the push for gay marriage has moved some LGB individuals to the right. Guntermann and Beauvais' estimates show that while marriage makes most people more conservative, it has a larger effect on gay men, bringing them roughly to the average ideological score of straight men.

However, when viewing the LGB community overall the study notes an important counterweight: bisexual women. This group is by far the most left-wing group as measured by self-identification, immigration preferences, and vote choice. While men are generally more conservative than women overall, bisexual women are not only more left-wing than gay men, but also significantly further left than lesbian women. This is important because data from the 2019 Canada Election Study show that the number of self-identified bisexual women increased fivefold from Gen X (born 1965-1980) to Gen Z (born 1997-2012). With over 20% of Gen Z women identifying as bisexual, this represents an extremely heavy counterweight to any movement among other groups in the LGB population.

The study's conclusions? Despite some rightward movement among married gay men, the outsized increase in young bisexual-identified women suggests that the leftward tilt of the LGB community overall will persist for the foreseeable future.