Tuesday :: Oct 12, 2004

Gender Bender


by Marie

Cokie Roberts declared recently that the “gender gap” has disappeared. In 2000 we were told that the “gender gap” had narrowed for the first time since 1980. Is either statement true? No. A “gender gap” in voting behavior between all men and women has existed since it has been measured beginning in 1952 and to postulate that it suddenly disappeared in four years is about as rational as expecting to find WMD in Iraq. IOW, ludicrous. (I know Cokie is not exactly the biggest brain in punditland but she is a factor in shaping public opinion.) To say that it narrowed in 2000 requires some “fuzzy math” and renders any concept of “gender gap” to meaninglessness.

Consider 1992 and 2000 and how some calculated the “gender gap”

Men -- ---- --- Clinton +4; Gore -11
Women---- ---Clinton +8; Gore +11
Gender Gap-- Clinton +4; Gore 0

Clearly some people have trouble with negative numbers. The divergence in voting behavior between men and women in the Clinton/GHB contest was four points. But the divergence in 2000 was 22 points and not zero.

Based on Gallup polling, distinctive and interesting historical patterns do emerge. (A note of caution: As Steve has informed all of us, Gallup may not be a reliable pollster, but it is the only one available to look at this factor. As long as we don’t take any of these numbers as accurate but merely reasonably close, then we should be okay.)

VOTE FOR PRESIDENT BY GENDER, 1952-2000
All Trends Through 1996 Based on Final Pre-Election Gallup Surveys

.....................National %; Men %; Women %; Gender Gap %
1952
Stevenson (D).. 44; 47; 42;
Eisenhower (R).. 55; 53; 58;
GAP.............. -11; -6; -16; 10

1956
Stevenson (D).. 42; 45; 39
Eisenhower (R).. 58; 55; 61
GAP...............-16; -10; -22; 12

1960
Kennedy (D)..... 49.9; 52; 49
Nixon (R)......... 49.8; 48; 51
GAP.............. 0.1; 4; -2; 6

1964
Johnson (D)..... 61; 60; 62
Goldwater (R).. 39; 40; 38
GAP................. 22; 20; 24; 4

1968
Humphrey.......... 42.7; 41; 45
Nixon............... 43.4; 43; 43
GAP................. -0.7; -2; 2; 4

1972
McGovern......... 38; 37; 38
Nixon............... 61; 63; 62
GAP................. -23; -26; -24; 2

1976

Carter............ 50; 53; 48
Ford............... 48; 45; 51
GAP................. 2; 8; -3; 11

1980

Carter.............. 41; 38; 44
Reagan............. 51; 53; 49;
GAP................. -10; -15; -5; 10

1984

Mondale........... 41; 36; 45
Reagan............ 59; 64; 55
GAP............... -18; -28; -10; 18

1988

Dukakis........... 46; 44; 48
Bush................ 54; 56; 52
GAP.................-8; -12; -4; 8

1992

Clinton............. 43; 41; 46
Bush................ 38; 37; 38
GAP...................5; 4; 8; 4

1996

Clinton............. 49; 45; 53
Dole................ 41; 44; 38
GAP................. 8; 1; 15; 14

2000

Gore................ 48; 42; 54
Bush................ 48; 53; 43
GAP.................. 0; -11; 11; 22

Did the Democratic advantage among women voters emerge in 1980 as has been claimed. No, it began in 1964 and has continued in every Presidential election since then except for 1976. 1976? Women preferred Nixon to Kennedy? And Gerald Ford to Carter? Strange as it may seem, yes. In fact the women’s vote didn’t change the outcome of a single election from 1952 forward until 2000. 2000? Yes, the year the “gender gap” narrowed was the only time we ladies made a difference. No wonder GWB has behaved as if he had a mandate and not as if he stole it with the decisive vote made by the SCOTUS (the only people in the country who got to vote twice; once on election day and again a few weeks later; thereby denying all of us equal protection, the very clause in the Fourteenth Amendment that they claimed to be upholding).

Were women more astute than men in evaluating the two candidates in 2000? I would like to think so; unfortunately such a conclusion begs the question on too many prior elections. Have women become more liberal during the past fifty years? Again these facts don’t support that conclusion, although it could be true. And what does all this say about men; the ones who have chosen our Presidents for all these years? And how is all of this playing out in our current election cycle?

From what I’ve observed, the campaigns of both Parties are following the following formulation: "If you look at white men or women, most Republican campaigns become very simple calculations," says GOP pollster Bill McInturff. "If we win, it's because we won white men by 20 or 25 points and we break even or win white women by 3 points." It’s all very simple if you ignore the complexity; white men rule as long as white women are cleaved in half. Worked (sort of) in 2000 when white men gave Bush a 24 point advantage and white women gave him a 1 point advantage. “Soccer and Nascar Dads” and “Security Moms” are the keys to victory.

No wonder the 2000 race has been reduced to “all war; all the time.” No wonder the anti-war left and minorities have been pushed around and threatened with “What, you want another four years of Bush?” Even though working women preferred Gore by 58% to only 39% for Bush, they aren’t important because they don’t vote in the same proportions as those white married women who thrill at the sound of words such as “more tax credits/cuts for middle class families.” And we wonder why there is on the order of five million single working women who don’t bother to vote.

For all the skill in electoral politics possessed by the Democrats and Republicans, I can’t help but wonder if they are missing the forest for the trees. Democrats bemoan the fact that if elections are reduced to core issues, they win. Yet, right now with the worst POTUS in living memory running for a second term, the race is a virtual tie. How can this be? And is there an explanation for that that also explains the voting behavior of men and women since 1952?

Could it be about change and risk taking behavior as embodied in the Presidential candidates? It is irrefutable that men are more comfortable with high-risk behavior than women are. Even when they know the risks and how devastating the consequences can be. Women change their clothes and men change everything but their clothes. Change versus the status quo. It takes a higher level of discomfort for women to change the status quo than it does men. Once Democrats stopped became less agents for change and became identified with maintaining the status quo, they began to lose elections. (I’m even going to postulate that LBJ could have won a second term had he been a younger and/or healthier man because he was a “change agent” even though most people were displeased with some of the changes he made.)

The GOP has positioned themselves as the agents of change. They only lose when the opponent bests them on this dimension as Carter and Clinton did in 1976 and 1992 respectively. Reagan’s image as a change agent was so well developed by 1984 that it was the incumbent and not the challenger that promised more change. Even a period of relative peace and prosperity and with an incredibly weak candidate, the votes for Dole amongst men should be eye-popping. Men were almost ready for a change and women were saying, “Hold on, I’m going to trade in peace and prosperity because I’m bored? I think not.” By 2000 the forces for change were so strong that it beat satisfaction.

Which brings us to 2004. This is what makes this race unique; both Parties promise to be both. GWB is proclaiming that he will “stay the course” (status quo for women?) and “you ain’t seen nothing yet” (for men?). Is Kerry offering women enough “status quo” or have they reached the point where more Bush is much riskier than a change? And is he offering enough change that he can best GWB on this variable with men? Your guess is as good as mine.

Marie :: 6:39 PM :: Comments (8) :: Digg It!