Looking at all the Democratic voters in our sample, we found a strong preference for women over men (plus 6.8 percentage points) and for minority candidates: Compared with whites, black candidates received an advantage of 4.2 percentage points, Latinos 2.2 percentage points, Asians 0.4 percentage points and Native Americans 4.5 percentage points. Meanwhile, despite public opinion polling showing that most Americans today would be OK with a gay president, our study showed gay candidates face a slight penalty compared with straight ones (minus 1.2 percentage points).
Fascinating results emerged when we analyzed specific subsets of the Democratic primary electorate. Self-identified very liberal voters—a fourth of Democrats who voted in the 2016 primaries—showed a very strong preference for women candidates (plus 15 percentage points compared with men) and they also preferred gay over straight candidates (plus 2.3 percentage points). Democrats who never attend religious services—about a third in our sample and nationally—showed an even stronger preference for gay candidates: plus 5 percentage points. In contrast, moderate and conservative Democrats—who represent about 40 percent of the party’s primary voters—penalized gay candidates (minus 3.7 percentage points) but still preferred women to men (plus 6.1 percentage points).