Posted by: Amelia | July 23, 2007

That Gender Gap Thing

Last week’s New York Times piece on Hillary Clinton, titled “Women Supportive but Skeptical of Clinton, Poll Says,” was one of the most blogged and emailed articles last week. I downloaded the PDF version of the poll in question, and it actually has quite a bit of other survey data mixed in. The Times article has lots of good analysis on the gender gap as it relates to Clinton, but here are some broader findings:

The partisan gender gap is back. Participants were asked whether they were generally satisfied with the candidates now running, or whether they wish there were more choices. 61% of Democrats were satisfied, while 37% wished there were more choices. The ratio was flipped for Republicans: 36% were satisfied with the field, while 60% wished there were more choices. The satisfaction gap is even more pronounced for women. 68% of Democratic women are satisfied with their options, while only 33% of Republican women are satisfied. And if the election were held today, 53% of female respondents said they would vote Democrat, while only 27% said they would vote Republican. It should be noted, though, that men also favored a generic Democrat, but the margin was small (41% to 38%). The partisan gender gap, which shrank in 2004 (Kerry won women by only a 3-point margin), appears ready for a comeback.

Abortion is likely not the cause of the gap. Men and women had shockingly similar views on abortion. 40% of women and 42% of men said abortion should be available generally, 35% of women and 33% of men said it should be available but with more restrictions, and 22% of women and 23% of men said it should be banned. Statistically, men and women have an identical spectrum of views on abortion. Of course, it’s always possible that those women who favor unrestricted abortion care about the issue more than their pro-choice male counterparts and would mobilize around the issue more.

Possible suspects: war, health care, economy, and immigration. The issues that do show a gender gap are not, prima facie, gender-related. Participants were asked which in a list of issues was most important to their presidential decision, and 24% of women (versus 15% of men) chose Iraq. 19% of men versus 15% of women chose the economy, whereas 17% of women and only 13% of men chose health care. All other issues had less than a 3 point gap, save for immigration: 12% of men ranked it as their most important issue, compared to 7% of women. On balance, it seems that these issues are more likely causes of the partisan gender gap. It would be particularly useful to know, though, which sides of the issues the respondents were on. Are those 24% of women concerned about Iraq mostly anti-war? Are they more anti-war than the 15% of men concerned about Iraq? Are the men concerned about immigration mostly pro or anti?

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