As Democrats gather in Charlotte this week to nominate President Barack Obama for a second term, a majority of Illinois delegates who responded to a Daily Herald survey think his support for legalizing same-sex marriage will boost his election chances.
Nearly 78 percent of delegates who responded to the survey think Obama's announcement earlier this year in support of legalizing same-sex marriage will help him win independent voters. The rest said Obama's views on the issue will neither help nor hurt him.
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Forty Illinois delegates answered the question on the survey out of 214 total delegates. Eleven survey respondents skipped the question.
"I'm not sure if his support will help or hurt him to win this election," said Zack Carroll, an Obama delegate from Burr Ridge. "But, more importantly, I do know that it will prove him to be the first U.S. president publicly on the right side of history on this issue."
The results contrast with views of Republican delegates surveyed by the Daily Herald in advance of last week's convention in Tampa.
In that survey, 33 percent thought Republican nominee Mitt Romney's opposition to same-sex marriage would help him win independent voters, 4 percent thought that stance would hurt his chances, and 64 percent answered it would neither help nor hurt him.
Fifty-five Republicans answered the question out of 132 surveyed.
"This is not one of the major issues the nation faces but social issues always get tons of attention," said state Rep. Dennis Reboletti, an Elmhurst Republican and Romney delegate from last week's GOP convention.
That makes such issues a platform for energizing voters and motivating them to work harder for a candidate.
"I don't think this will have a major effect on voters," said Moises Garcia, an Obama delegate from West Chicago. "But at the most, it will help excite the more liberal portions of his base."
Same-sex marriage might be a higher profile issue on the state level than the federal stage in coming years, particularly in Illinois.
Illinois lawmakers have already approved civil unions, and a lawsuit seeking to legalize same-sex marriage is making its way through the courts.
Legislation to legalize same-sex marriages could be debated later this year.