Men — Not Women — to Decide the Election
November 4, 2012 - 9:33 am
So says Gallup Vice President Frank Newport. And his reasoning is interesting:
“The issue is not the women’s vote, but the men’s vote,” Frank Newport, Gallup’s editor-in-chief, told Yahoo News. The reason: polls show male voters look much more likely to break from their 2008 voting patterns. If that happens, the men’s vote could decide whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney becomes the next president.
Four years ago, Obama won 49 percent of the male vote, buoyed by historic gains with white men, who chose the Democratic candidate in the highest proportions seen since Jimmy Carter. Even so, most white men—57 percent of them—still voted for John McCain, and a majority of such voters have not backed a Democratic candidate since 1964, when men began abandoning the Democratic party.
This year, Obama’s inroads with white men have eroded. Worse, the candidate tracks in the low 40s among all men, not just white ones, in the latest ABC/Washington Post polls. It’s possible the president will have lost up to 9 points of ground among male voters compared to 2008. No Democratic candidate has been elected in the past 50 years without gaining close to half of the male vote.
Why are some men abandoning Obama? It’s open to interpretation, but one fairly straightforward theory from Newport is that male voters rate Romney higher on the issues that they say are most important: jobs, the economy and the deficit.
A reverse gender gap? Obama does very well with single women, but loses with married women. Romney cleans the president’s clock with all men, but especially with white males. Why?
Beginning in 1964, but intensifying with Ronald Reagan’s first presidential election, men began leaving the Democratic party and voting Republican. The major causes of the shift were attitudes on both government spending and war, according to the Rutgers political scientist Susan Carroll. For the most part women, who in surveys are not only consistently much more wary of government cutbacks than men, but also much less likely to support foreign military interventions and wars, stayed with the Democrats.
The normal “gender gap” is about 7% — that’s the way it’s been since 1980. Support by both sexes tends to wax and wane during a campaign — Obama had a 16 point lead among women just 6 weeks ago — but by election day, it usually settles back in the 7 point range.
What’s significant here is that Obama received the support of an historic percentage of white men in 2008 (43%) while among all men he got 49%. Those numbers are going to drop like a stone on Tuesday and unless there is a corresponding increase in turnout among women and minorities, Obama is going to be in trouble.