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The Reemergence of the Gender Gap

by Ruy Teixeira

In the 2004 election, men favored George Bush by 55–44, while women favored Kerry by just 51-48, a notably modest gender gap by recent standards. This led some observers to speculate that the gender gap may be on its way out, as “security moms” and other GOP-leaning women cut into the Democrats’ advantage among women.

But recent data suggest that the gender gap is returning with a vengeance. For example, consider these data from the latest LA Times poll:

• Nearly two out of three men say the economy is doing well, 53% of women say it is doing badly.

• A small majority of men approve of the way the president is handling the war on terrorism, but three out of five women disapprove.

• Male voters are divided over who they would vote for if the congressional election were held today, but 57% of women voters would vote for a Democratic in their congressional district.

• Male voters are virtually split as to who they want to control Congress, but 56% of women voters want Democrats to control both chambers.

• Women think Democrats come closer to representing their views (50% to 32% for the GOP), while men think Republicans do, although by a smaller margin (45% to 37%).

• About a third of men believe the congressional GOP’ers have more honesty and integrity than the Democrats in Congress; the reverse is true of women.

• Nearly half of women think the Democrats will keep American prosperous for years to come, while men are divided over this issue (each party at 36%).

• Men by more than two to one think the Republican party is best to handle the war on terrorism, while this time, women are divided.

• Women by 11 points think the Democrats over the Republicans can do a better job of handling the situation in Iraq, while men give this issue to the Republicans by 16 points.

If the November 2004 election were being held today, and knowing what you know today, who would you vote for? The voters surveyed would give Mass. Senator John Kerry the edge over the incumbent, George W. Bush by 10 points (49% to 39%). Once again we see a large gender gap. Male voters were divided, while women voters gave Kerry a 20 point advantage (53% to 33%). Eleven percent who said they voted for Bush in 2004, would vote for Kerry, while just 3% of Kerry voters would switch to Bush.

The Democrats must be thinking: better late than never! It will be interesting to see if the exit polls this November confirm this reemergence of the gender gap.