CHARLOTTE, N.C. — National exit polling data estimates that five percent of the nation’s voters on Tuesday self-identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual. The numbers, if taken at face value in North Carolina, reveal a potentially-powerful constituency for those seeking elected office.

By the numbers

National gay electorate: 5%

North Carolina, total: 4,500,668
N.C., gay ballots 225,033

Mecklenburg Co., total: 450,042
Meck. Co., gay ballots: 22,502

The data was compiled by Edison Media Research for the National Election Pool, a collection of national print, television and other media outlets. Both early voters and those who cast ballots on Nov. 6 were polled.

This year marks the first time the gay electorate reached five percent. Anywhere between three and four percent identified as gay in elections from 2004 through 2010.

This year, 76 percent of gay respondents said they voted for President Barack Obama. Twenty-two percent cast ballots for Republican Mitt Romney.

If applied locally, the exit polling data shows a sizable gay voting bloc.

“As close as the electorate is right now, five percent could make a lot of difference in a lot of races,” said Stuart Campbell, executive director of the statewide LGBT advocacy and education group Equality North Carolina. “While the numbers aren’t huge, they are significant.”

A total of more than 4.5 million ballots were cast in North Carolina. Five percent of that is just over 225,000 ballots. In Mecklenburg County, which represents nearly 10 percent of the state’s total electorate, gay voters might have cast as many as 22,500 ballots.

Scott Bishop, chair of the Mecklenburg LGBT Political Action Committee, or MeckPAC, says the numbers indicate a savvy, politically-minded minority. He hopes local officials will pay attention to the data, which he plans on using to help educate on LGBT issues.

“I can take that number now…into conversation with these folks on what we want to see and can show that we are a politically-active constituency and that we are able to get our supporters out to vote,” Bishop said. “I can see a great benefit of using that number to educate on the strength of the GLBT community.”

Campbell, too, sees opportunities for education and believes elected leaders should take note.

“I think elected officials of any political party should pay attention to the fact that the LGBT community is growing politically both nationally and here in North Carolina,” Campbell said. “They need to focus on issues that are important to the LGBT community.”

LGBT voters, Campbell said, made their mark at polling booth this year.

“When you look at the platforms of the political parties and if you look at the presidential candidates, there was a clear choice for the LGBT vote,” he said.

Republicans don’t have to be at odds with LGBT voters, Campbell said. “I really hope the Republican Party got the message that there is a large voting bloc that is there if they can move away from social wedge issues.”

The national exit polling did not ask participants if they identified as transgender.

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Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.