It was a much discussed feature of the campaign for months: will President Obama’s accusations of a Republican “War on Women” widen the gender gap that had been a feature of American elections since 1980?
Gallup says the Obama strategy was successful.
The gender gap in the 2012 presidential election was the largest since Gallup began tracking the metric in 1952, according to data released by the polling firm on Friday.
President Obama won women by 12 percentage points, while Mitt Romney won men by 8. That’s a 20-point gender gap, edging out the 1984 election when Ronald Reagan defeated Democrat Walter Mondale in a landslide.
Reagan won both men and women in that election, but carried men by 28 points and women by only 10 – a disparity of 18 points.
2012 was the fifth straight election to feature a double-digit gender gap.
Still, Romney performed better among women than Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) did in 2008. Obama had a 14-point advantage among female voters over his GOP counterpart that year. Romney also outperformed McCain among men in this election – in 2008 Obama and McCain split the male vote.
The politics of gender played a significant role throughout the 2012 election, as Romney looked to cut into Obama’s advantage among female voters by framing the economy as a women’s issue.
The strategy worked for a while, as polls showed women flocking to the GOP challenger after his strong first debate performance. But Romney was unable to hold on to those gains in the final weeks of the campaign, and the Obama campaign relentlessly portrayed the GOP candidate as a throwback to the 1950s in his views on women’s reproductive and pay equity issues.
It didn’t help Romney that two Republican Senate candidates tripped themselves up by getting in trouble with voters over comments about rape and pregnancy. But ultimately, it was the president’s relentless scare tactics — aided by female surrogates who wildly exaggerated Romney’s positions on the issues — that worked to undermine the GOP candidate’s message to women.
A billion dollars goes a long way toward creating whatever reality in the voter’s mind that will lead to victory. The attacks by President Obama that misrepresented or lied about Republican positions apparently worked to perfection.