May 11, 2016

TRUMP’S GENDER “PROBLEM”: The repeated talking point that Donald Trump has a “problem” with female voters turns out to be driven largely by party affiliation and race rather than gender itself.  The New York Slimes Times has a piece today titled “The Women Who Like Donald Trump,” as though it such women are a rare breed worthy of examination. Salon has an even more ridiculous piece, “Trump’s Misogynist Campaign.

But exit polling from the Republican primaries in West Virginia and Nebraska indicate that Republican women supported Trump at essentially the same rate as women’s participation in the primary. The same absence of a “gender gap” existed prior to Cruz and Kasich suspending their campaigns, as is evidenced by exit polls in Republican primaries such as New York, Wisconsin, and Indiana.

Even the Quinnipiac poll released yesterday that focuses on the swing states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania show that while Clinton outpaces Trump among all women voters (not merely Republicans), her gender advantage appears to be race-specific, with Clinton holding a commanding lead with non-white women, but Trump actually beating Clinton among white women. In Florida, Clinton has a 13 point advantage among women (48-35) but Trump actually leads Clinton by 3 points among white women (43-40).  In Ohio, Clinton enjoys a 7 point lead among female voters over Trump (43-36), but once again, Trump has a 7 point advantage over Clinton among white women (42-35).  In Pennsylvania, Clinton enjoys her largest gender advantage, beating Trump by 19 points among women (51-32)– a gap that narrows to 6 points among white women (45-39).

Clinton’s gender advantage is weaker than Obama’s 12 point advantage over Romney with female voters in 2012.  And the gender difference in presidential elections almost always favors the Democrats’ candidate, suggesting that Hillary’s gender advantage may be due more to the fact that she is a Democrat than any particular gender “problem” specific to Trump.  Other recent Republican candidates had similar gender gaps without facing incessant accusations of misogyny. John McCain, for example, had a 14 percent deficit versus Obama among female voters in 2008.  George W. Bush had an 8 percent female deficit versus Gore in 2000. Indeed, the last Republican presidential candidate to win among female voters was George H.W. Bush in 1988, who beat Dukakis among women 52-48.

There is little doubt that Trump has high “unfavorable” ratings with women, but this doesn’t appear to be translating into voting against him, at least among Republican women and white women. This should not be particularly surprising, as Hillary Clinton’s “unfavorable” ratings among women are also quite high–with 52 percent of women characterizing Clinton as “unfavorable” in a recent PPP poll–and of course even higher among men (59 percent), yet it doesn’t appear to stop Democrats of either gender from pulling the lever for her.

Don’t get me wrong: Donald Trump is more popular among men than women, and Hillary Clinton is more popular among women than men. But the gender gap between the two candidates is not as large as has been reported by the media, and appears to be driven mostly by party affiliation and race than gender itself. I would be very interested to see any data that focuses specifically on the Trump-Clinton gender preference among independent voters, which may be a more accurate indicator.

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