Hillary Clinton and the Gender Gap
CQPolitics has a long if inconclusive article examining the possible impact of a Hillary Clinton nomination on the women’s vote in the general election. Specifically, would women–who are already predisposed to vote for Democratic candidates–be more likely to turn out to vote for a woman? And would that so-called Gender Gap increase if there were a woman on the ballot?
There’s no guarantee that a larger turnout of Democratic women would automatically create an environment favoring Clinton and other Democratic candidates. In 2004, President Bush won re-election despite a high turnout of women voters, who marginally favored his Democratic rival, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts. But the fact that women are a majority of the electorate — generally 51 percent to 54 percent of voters in national elections over the last 10 years — and that they tend to favor Democrats, and particularly women candidates, makes the prospect of a higher turnout for Clinton a wild card for the next election.
“I do think party trumps gender, but when you’ve got those kinds of numbers on your side — wow,” said Karlyn H. Bowman, a public opinion researcher at the American Enterprise Institute. “It’s going to be something people are going to have to pay attention to.”
Kathleen Dolan, an associate professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee who has studied women voters, said she’s not convinced that women will cross party lines in droves to vote for Clinton. But she does see the potential for a shift if single women, whose turnout tends to be lower than married women, show up in larger numbers. She and other researchers will be watching closely to see if that happens.
“There is this untapped, unmobilized bloc of single women who might have Democratic tendencies and who haven’t been drawn into the process, but could be drawn in by the Clinton candidacy,” said Dolan. “That’s impossible to predict. But the potential is there.”
There has never been a serious female candidate for president, so we have no data. The results are mixed for lower level officers such as governor, mayor, or Senator. And there is some thought that even women would be reluctant to vote for a woman as commander-in-chief of the armed forces during wartime.
A forthcoming article in Public Opinion Quarterly reportedly finds that people lie to pollsters on the subject for fear of appearing sexist.
Virtually equal percentages of male and female respondents were upset by the prospect of a female president, and nearly equal percentages also were found among respondents with different levels of education. “You would think educated people, younger people and females would be less upset about the prospect of a female president,” Streb said. “That doesn’t appear to be the case.”
There will certainly be people who refuse to vote for Hillary Clinton because she’s a woman, just as there will be people who vote for her solely for that reason. Logically, though, there is a much larger class of people likely to have a pro-woman bias than the reverse.