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Do Men and Women Tend to Favor the Same Presidential Candidates in the General Election?--

There has been a recent dust-up between Linda Hirshman on one side and Mark Schmitt and Ann Althouse on the other. (Count me as a fan of both Linda's and Ann's scholarship.) If I am reading correctly, there seems to be an impression that women's votes seldom determine the outcome of presidential elections. Usually both men and women favor the same candidate, so generally neither men nor women control the outcome.

According to exit poll data reported in the New York Times, a plurality of women have voted for the candidate getting the most votes in every presidential election since 1972 except for the last one, 2004 (when they favored Kerry). And men have voted for the plurality winner in every election since 1972 except 1996 (when they favored Dole) and 2000 (when they favored Bush). So women's first choices have lost 1 election in the popular vote and 2 elections in the electoral vote, while men's first choices have lost 2 elections in the popular vote and 1 election in the electoral vote.

Bottom line: The assumption that women's preferences for president seldom determine the outcome of a presidential election is indeed true. But then men's preferences are seldom dispositive either. On the other hand, in each of the last three presidential elections, men and women have differed in their first choices for president. We may have entered a new era in which the winners of presidential elections don't receive a plurality from both genders.

Zero:
It's almost as if voters, regardless of sex or skin color, determine the outcome of elections or something. Almost...
2.3.2007 1:27pm
Ron Hardin (mail) (www):
But the problem is that women vote, and so public debate already has taken account of their numbers.

60% of them vote like men and aren't a problem; the other 40% vote soap opera.
2.3.2007 2:59pm
PaulB (mail):
This argument makes more to do about gender differences in voting and election outcomes than the data supports. What has happened is that female voters are now consistently voting 8 to 10 points more Democratic than men, so it takes something like a 55-45 split in an election (not just for President) for both genders to have given majority support for the same candidate.

Two facts to consider in asking why this gender difference has emerged. First, the gender difference is disproportionately found among the never married and divorced. Secondly, the default view that this difference must be tied to the abortion issue or anything else unique to American politics must ask themselves why a similar gender difference exists in European (at least British and Scandinavian) elections as well.
2.3.2007 6:50pm
eric (mail):
I think the gender difference emerges because single and divorce women and more likely to use government programs.
2.4.2007 3:29am
Dave N (mail):
I think the voting disparity is something both political parties need to be concerned about. When either political party writes off a significant portion of the electorate, then it is at least two steps closer to unelectability.

PaulB's point is right on the money. I may sound politically incorrect, but I believe the difference has to do with what issues are most important to women versus what issues are most important to men. Michael Barone identified the problem here as the difference between "Hard" and "Soft" America. While his point was somewhat different, the tension between "hard" and "soft" America might explain the tension between male and female voters and why they vote differntly.
2.4.2007 2:29pm