Biden’s Record Gender Gap

If the Democrats win back the White House in November, it'll be no thanks to men.

CNN’s Harry Enten tells us that “Joe Biden is winning female voters by a historic margin.” Which is a good thing, since he’s losing among men.

Biden is earning a historic amount of support from female voters for a presidential nominee when examining polling over the last 70 years.
Take a look at the most recent live interview polls of registered voters from May and June compiled by The New York Times’ Nate Cohn.

Biden is leading among female registered voters by 59% to 35%, a 25-point margin when the numbers aren’t rounded. That’s a significant increase from his 19-point advantage earlier this year and the 14-point lead Hillary Clinton had in the final 2016 preelection polls of registered voters. Clinton had a 13-point edge with likely female voters.

We can go back even further. Prior to 2016, Gallup would take its final preelection poll and readjust it to match the final margin. I look to Gallup to make the closest apples-to-apples comparison (i.e preelection polling to preelection polling) that we can make.

The only year that comes close to what we see in the polls right now is 1964. That year, Democrat Lyndon Johnson won nationally by 23 points overall, and Gallup had him taking the women’s vote by 24 points. Biden’s doing a point better than Johnson did among female voters, even as he is doing 13 points worse overall. In no other year since 1952 did the Democratic nominee win among female voters by more than 15 points.

(If we look at Republican nominees as well, Richard Nixon won the women’s vote by 24 points in 1972 as he won nationally by 23 points.)

Perhaps what makes Biden more impressive with women is how weak he is with men. He’s seen only a 2-point climb with them from earlier this year and is still losing them to Trump by 6 points. That’s about how Clinton did with them in the final 2016 preelection polling. Clinton trailed by 5 and 7 points among registered voters and likely male voters, respectively.

In fact, the only candidate to win the presidency since 1952 and do as poorly as Biden is doing with male voters right now was Barack Obama in 2012. Obama lost them by 6 points, per Gallup’s tally.

The fact that Biden is leading overall (10 points) by a significantly wider margin than Obama won by (4 points), despite how poorly Biden is doing with men, is another indication of how strong he is with female voters.
When you contrast female and male voters, you see that we could be heading toward a record gender gap. The 31-point difference right now blows past any in past preelection polling. Both 2012 and 2016 featured gaps of around 20 points. The average from 1996 to 2016 was a gap of about 16 points, which is only about half of what we’re seeing in the polling right now.

That there’s a gender gap in the polling is hardly surprising. Women have leaned Democrat more so than men in just about every election in my lifetime. Still, it’s rather extraordinary that Biden is polling much better with women than Hillary Clinton did against the same opponent.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Gender Issues, Joe Biden, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. DrDaveT says:

    Perhaps what makes Biden more impressive with women is how weak he is with men. He’s seen only a 2-point climb with them from earlier this year and is still losing them to Trump by 6 points.

    Which begs the question, “What the hell is wrong with American men?”

    the only candidate to win the presidency since 1952 and do as poorly as Biden is doing with male voters right now was Barack Obama in 2012. Obama lost them by 6 points

    Ah. OK, the obvious thing is wrong with American men.

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  2. Sleeping Dog says:

    A double benefit of support from women, is that they are more reliable voters.

    Still, it’s rather extraordinary that Biden is polling much better with women than Hillary Clinton did against the same opponent.

    Does that say something about women voters, Hillary or 3+ years of Tiny?

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  3. mattbernius says:

    I suspect that if one was to add some additional cross-tabs to the analysis, we would discover that the gap is largely due to a specific racial subset of men.

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  4. James Joyner says:

    @mattbernius: Yes, I’m sure this is mostly white men. And the gender gap is likely much smaller among white women.

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  5. gVOR08 says:

    In Identity Crisis Sides et al note that being female is much less important in women’s self identity than being a traditional white male is for men. I would guess this is because being a white male puts you on top of the conservative “natural order” while being a white woman does not.

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  6. Still, it’s rather extraordinary that Biden is polling much better with women than Hillary Clinton did against the same opponent.

    I saw evidence that even a lot of women held sexist views that colored their support for HRC. (I am now to the point where I think it quite possible that when someone says that a female candidate is “irritating,” “off-putting,” or so forth that there is some unconscious bias going on).

    And, of course, Trump has done nothing to appeal to women in a broad sense, and ongoing revelations about him can’t be too ingratiating with the average female.

    Also: the overall trend is a wider gap.

    7
  7. CSK says:

    @gVOR08:
    Robert B. Parker once pointed out that while everyone has heard the admonition “be a man” and knows what it means, there’s no equivalent for women. What would “be a woman” mean? Be pretty? Be a good cook? Be stereotypically feminine? Be sexy? Be helpless and dependent? What?

    There’s a code for men. There isn’t for women.

    11
  8. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    (I am now to the point where I think it quite possible that when someone says that a female candidate is “irritating,” “off-putting,” or so forth that there is some unconscious bias going on).

    Hillary Sarah Palin?

    2
  9. Jay L Gischer says:

    I guess when Trump calls to ‘dominate the landscape’ it still makes a lot of men go ‘yeah!’ instead of making them roll their eyes, like I do.

    Still, I’m a proud member of the 43 Percent. What are the 43 Percent? Well, if you look into gender salary differences, one of the statistics you’ll run across is how 57 percent of men negotiate the salary of their first job out of college, while only 3 percent of women do.

    The numbers might vary a bit from study to study, but that’s the one I use. I did not, in fact, negotiate the salary of my first job out of college. I just took what they offered me. Which deposits me in the same bin as 97 percent of all women, and 43 percent of all men. Thus the 43 Percent. I mean, there’s a lot of us, but somehow the 57 percent – the Trump supporters, the “loud and proud” – represent the gender, hold everyone’s attention, and define masculinity. Meanwhile a guy like Fred Rogers – who clearly embodied a very different sort of masculinity – is a beloved figure, and you can find stories from adult men about “the time I met Fred Rogers and he changed my life”.

    To be clear, I think it’s just fine to negotiate salary. I choose this divider because there isn’t much moral valence to it, which makes the difference in attitudes clearer.

    The 57 percent is losing the long game. I think they kind of know that. Trump is kind of a Hail Mary for them.

    6
  10. Gustopher says:

    @Sleeping Dog: If you think that sexism wasn’t part of why Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann were vilified, you weren’t paying attention. And Sharon Angle and Christine O’Donnell…

    Compare the reaction to Louie Gohmert, Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz and the like. Just as vile, but not as vilified.

    Palin had a higher profile, which is why I would include the others in the comparisons.

    It’s been a while since the left has vilified a right wing loon woman that way… are we learning, or does the President just eclipse them? The current meme of Karens would suggest it’s not the former…

    5
  11. Michael Reynolds says:

    @CSK:

    There’s a code for men. There isn’t for women.

    I disagree a bit. I think there is a code for women – you can’t be indifferent to a baby, you can’t be aggressive, you can’t just walk around looking like a slob, etc…. Plenty of pressure there.

    The problem with the ‘man code’ is that it’s a contradictory mess. We are all raised from birth to see ourselves as potential future soldiers, athletes, protectors, earners. What percentage of men become soldiers or athletes? 1% maybe? Men of my generation at least were raised to see our primary (non combat) role as providers, with the paradigm being man as earner and protecter, woman as housekeeper and mother. That largely went out the window decades ago.

    So we have some obsolete code and we have random bits of new code. None of it is holistic, it’s not in synch with reality, it makes no damn sense. Unfortunately most people, certainly most men, lack the wherewithal to rewrite their own code and bring it into compliance with reality. And then the problem becomes that a realistic man code has no unique, defining purpose. If we aren’t the soldiers, the earners or the protectors, WTF are we that differentiates us from women in a positive way?

    Right now what makes men different from women is that we’re violent and rapey. We lost all the positives in the old paradigms and kept the negatives. Women will always have a ‘thing’ that is uniquely theirs: childbirth. And all we have is generally shitty behavior. And to be honest I don’t know of a fix that works for large numbers of men.

    Personally I dissociate from all groups and define myself as just me, and my code is just my code, my story is whatever story I write for myself. I feel no loyalty to my sex or hostility to women. Group identity has never attracted me, I’ve never seen the advantage or the logic. I share certain characteristics with 49% of the human race. So what? It’s absurd to divide 7 billion people in half and think it means something. Will the 49% loan me money when I’m in a jam? No? Then WTF do they matter to me? And WTF do I owe them?

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  12. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Jay L Gischer:
    I’ve had many green room conversations with writers, and in my genre they’re mostly women. They seldom get paid well in part because in many cases they don’t ask for it.* I give them advice, but I doubt it’s made any difference. For my negotiation I always start with a ‘happy number.’ This is the number that will make me happy to do the work, and happy enough that if some other writer gets more I’ll still be happy.

    *There are exceptions, my wife being one. Her approach is, ‘I don’t really want to do this, convince me.’ She got a merch deal from Disney off just the underlying IP and her biggest one book advance is about five times mine.

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  13. Teve says:

    @mattbernius: white male college grads will vote Biden, white male no college will vote Trump.

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  14. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    What you say is quite true. BUT…the point is, there’s no saying for women equivalent to “be a man” for men. Everyone knows what “be a man” means: be strong, be brave, be honorable, don’t complain.

    But there’s nothing exact or even similar for women. I’m sure you’ve heard or read the saying “be a man” innumerable times. Can you say the same about “be a woman”? No, because the saying doesn’t exist. Certainly there are expectations for and of women, an exhausting number. But nothing that’s collapsible into 3 words.

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  15. Gustopher says:

    @CSK:

    Everyone knows what “be a man” means: be strong, be brave, be honorable, don’t complain.

    It’s that last one that is most prominent. “Be strong” and “be brave” really exist in service to “don’t complain.” “Be a man” is really just shorthand for “take it like a man.”

    Take it like a man — be stoic, don’t show emotions, don’t rely on others for help, and don’t organize. Join a gun club, sure, but don’t organize to help each other.

    Women might be lucky they don’t have a similar short definition. Well, “barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen” fell out of favor.

    6
  16. Gustopher says:

    @Gustopher: Just reread @Michael Reynolds’ comment, particularly this bit:

    Personally I dissociate from all groups and define myself as just me, and my code is just my code, my story is whatever story I write for myself. […] Group identity has never attracted me, I’ve never seen the advantage or the logic. […] Will the 49% loan me money when I’m in a jam? No? Then WTF do they matter to me? And WTF do I owe them?

    I think he really internalized “be a man,” not in relation to a difference from women, but as a difference from males who aren’t being men. The self-made frontiersman individual.

    I don’t think he lives up to that very much — he’s not a libertarian or anything — but it’s kind of interesting too see how much of that language is used when he describes himself.

    2
  17. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    The problem with the ‘man code’ is that it’s a contradictory mess.

    So true. This has everything to do with the situation we find ourselves in.

    2
  18. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    If we aren’t the soldiers, the earners or the protectors, WTF are we that differentiates us from women in a positive way?

    Put that way, nothing.

    Which would mean the misogynist nightmare is real: women and men are equals.

    6
  19. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Gustopher:
    Introvert denialism. Sigh.

    I describe myself accurately – I always do. My politics are one thing – I acknowledge an obligation to civilization. Personality and politics are not always the same thing. I’m not a libertarian because in addition to being intellectually indefensible, that’s a phony, brittle sort of individualism. Join an organization for people who don’t join organizations? Huh?

    Guess how many friends I’ve had in 65 years that were not temporary work friends? One. Literally. And since coming in out of the cold ~20 years ago – I’ve completely avoided him. Guess how long it’s been since I’ve seen my mother? 40 years. In the last 40 years I’ve seen my Dad maybe four times. I quit Facebook because family and acquaintances were contacting me. I’ve barely noticed lockdown – 14 weeks – because the only reasons I ever went out were for restaurants – with my wife – or the occasional comedy show. Every part of my life that I can manage without human contact, I do. My first ‘fiction’ was coming up with endless excuses not to ‘play’, ‘get together,’ or ‘hang out.’ There is no ‘the boys’ with whom I might spend a Friday night laughing loudly in a bar. I’m an introvert, I don’t enjoy being around people.

    It’s somewhere between funny and annoying that extroverts – most people – insist on believing that people like me don’t exist. Not everyone is like you. Not everyone needs what you need or enjoys what you enjoy. Some of us find the things you enjoy boring or even painful. ‘Oh, come on, you’ll have a good time.’ No, I won’t. Trust me. ‘You’ll like him.’ I might, but I won’t spend time with him. If it’s not about earning money or getting laid I will always prefer to be alone or with my wife. 99.9% of the time.

    Fortunately I married the one person on earth even less social than I am. And perhaps not coincidentally I’ve never been seriously depressed, never had counseling, I am never lonely except when Katherine is out of town, and have had an amazingly good marriage for (almost) 41 years. I wouldn’t want to tell anyone else how to live their life, but there’s a lot to be said for being anti-social. You know that call you have to make, and that function you have to attend, and that friend whose hand you have to hold? While you’re fulfilling all those obligations, I’m doing whatever the hell I want.

    4
  20. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Kathy:
    Equals in every way but one: you can gestate and give birth to a baby. You can be a link in the chain of survival for homo sapiens. That’s a pretty big thing.

    And the equally important function of men? Hell, we can keep h. sapiens going just fine with a few thousand sperm donors. Weigh that against the damage we do and you could easily conclude that men are a net negative.

    It is not a small thing that half the human race feels deprived of an important function. Dismissing it is a mistake. Possibly a dangerous one.

    2
  21. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    You know, it may be possible to take DNA from a woman’s ovum and fuse it with that of another woman, which would then make a viable embryo.

    Just saying. It may happen someday, but it won’t be the norm. In vitro is expensive and chancy.

    1
  22. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Kathy:

    sigh, the end of men. Not needed for anything.

    1
  23. I make it a point to not attempt a rational discussion with anyone who simply insults whoever they disagree with, rather than dealing with the issues involved. So let’s try considering an important issue…rationally, without rancor, or name-calling.

    Let me begin this hopeful debate by pointing out that I am not a master chef, not a trained auto mechanic, not a physician, and certainly not a certified psychiatrist. However, I know when an omelet’s been burnt, when a finger is broken, when my car’s brakes don’t work, and when a person is mentally deranged.

    Naturally, I might very well be wrong in any or all of these instances. I could be in a restaurant in France, where I’m told that omelets are typically reheated and browned on the bottom. That “broken” finger may simply be a congenital condition with no serious consequences. I could, and have, accidentally put my foot on the wrong pedal. And the object of my “analysis” could simply be clowning.

    But, should actual experts in any of these fields make such “diagnoses at a distance”? That is a serious question, which is a crucial one in these troubled times. Here goes my attempt to answer it.

    Not being a psychiatrist, I see no reason why I can’t state unequivocally, and based entirely on his tweets, speeches, interviews, and his public statements, that President Donald Trump is mentally ill.

    But, should a professional psychiatrist make such a statement about our President? My answer is “yes”. Diagnosis at a distance by professionals in their field of expertise is ordinarily, at the very least, an absurdity. But, as in many instances in this life, actions which may be flat-out wrong in most instances could, under extenuating circumstances, be essential.

    Since Donald Trump is clearly one of the most powerful persons on earth, can order someone killed without being held to account, may even plunge us into war through his position as Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces…public recognition of his fragile mental condition by psychiatrists is not only acceptable but even required.

    It has been some years since I’ve read Gulliver’s Travels, but I do remember that the protagonist did what would ordinarily be regarded as an unpardonable act…as having made use of his giant stature and the contents of his bladder to urinate on the Lilliputian monarch’s palace. But it was on fire, and that was the only water readily available.

    Maybe, now is indeed the time when psychiatrists must commit what would ordinarily be an inexcusable offense, which consists of diagnosing a person at a distance. However, this time the subject is a person who could do, and has already done, irreparable damage to others, to this country, and even to the world.

    And, perhaps, psychiatrists are even justified in analyzing at a distance anyone who can casually overlook the evidence that President Donald Trump is clearly showing signs of a serious mental illness.
    John A. Broussard
    broupome@hawaii.rr.com

    5
  24. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Yeah! Sort of like my disdain for organizations that allow the likes of me to become members. Very bad. 🙁

  25. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Dude, you misunderstand me. I’m not claiming you’re not an introvert or that introverts don’t exist — I work in software, if I wasn’t naturally an introvert I would become one to avoid socializing with those people…

    I’ve been social distancing since 1970. Other than the constant fear of horrible illness and death, I’ve been living my best life in the shutdown, and when people claim they can’t live like this forever I wonder why…

    What I was trying to say is that about half of your description of yourself reads like a John Wayne movie. Even as you are saying that there is no positive definition of what it means to be a man, you are so steeped in that cultural definition that you use it to describe yourself even when it barely fits because you have no other words for it. Skim over it, it’s about half.

    And you have a lot of words. Dare we say that you have the best words? No, of course not, only an idiot would say that. But you do have a lot of words. Reasonably good words even.

    But you are also clearly not remotely like a character from a John Wayne movie, despite falling back onto the language and phrasing of that myth. A phrase like “Never apologize, son, it’s a sign of weakness” would never seriously cross your lips, etc.

    I would also posit that this pervasive myth about manhood being independence from others (rather than a mere social avoidance of others), keeps Americans from forming broad class consciousness.

    Unless I’m wildly incorrect, you value the people who deliver your pot. You don’t want to hang out with them, but you want them to make enough to live and you don’t say “well, if they wanted healthcare they should have studied more in school, it’s their own fault.”

    3
  26. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    If we aren’t the soldiers, the earners or the protectors, WTF are we that differentiates us from women in a positive way?

    We’re the people with the power.

    And there’s a lot of conflict over that between those who fear giving up that power, and those who are comfortable sharing, and a lot of that comes from how much power the individual man holds.

    If you have so much that you’ll still end up on top — the white, college educated, upper middle class men — it’s only a minor sacrifice for fairness. If you have none, like the black man, there ain’t so much to give up.

    But if you’re a mediocre failing white man, slowly sliding backwards economically… you’ll fight to hold onto that tiny shred you still have. Or think you have.

    And it’s ugly.

    6
  27. Lounsbury says:

    @Kathy: Rather more than Misogynists. Reducing a broad male discomfort to that, misogyny, rather sets you on the route to conflict and failure.

  28. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Gustopher:

    Unless I’m wildly incorrect, you value the people who deliver your pot. You don’t want to hang out with them, but you want them to make enough to live and you don’t say “well, if they wanted healthcare they should have studied more in school, it’s their own fault.”

    Ten years waiting tables means you never tip poorly.

    To your larger point, the John Wayne reference is on-point. The Duke and my soldier Dad are the bases of my original notions of masculinity. Of course I’ve internalized that. But don’t mistake my use of those referents as an expression of my current position, rather I use language I think the audience will understand.

    Side point: neither the Duke nor my Dad are quite as parodies would imagine. John Wayne was a right-winger, but he was also married to a Latina, and his notions of masculinity included a sense of honor and kindness lacking in some more recent cinematic depictions of men. As for the old man, he’s the guy who wanted to get me to Canada to avoid the Vietnam era draft and voted for McGovern.

    1
  29. An Interested Party says:

    Thinking of this huge gender gap reminds me of the new Hulu series Mrs. America…of course it will be women who save this country and this world from a second Trump term…

  30. Monala says:

    @An Interested Party: only if white women step up. To put it another way: when this country doesn’t make progress, or even goes backwards, it’s often because white women didn’t step up (see: 2016 pres. election). Meanwhile, women of color are consistently and overwhelmingly trying to move the country in the right direction.

    I found it interesting that in Mrs. America, it was Shirley Chisholm who wanted to speak out about and advocate for female Congressional staffers who were being sexually harassed (even to the point of being required to provide sexual favors), while her white female Congressional colleagues didn’t want to upset any white male potential allies…