Election 2016

Don’t Believe the Hype: The Gender Gap Still Favors Obama, Big-time

No, women voters are not running into the arms of Mitt Romney.

A flurry of recent headlines have encouraged us to believe that Mitt Romney is closing the gap with women -- particularly in swing states. Is it true? Or is it just last- minute election spin?

Looks like spin. As I mentioned last week, the signs have been pointing for some time to an unusually large gender gap in this election cycle. The New York Times’ Nate Silver published his analysis of the major polls less than two weeks ago and found that we’re talking “near historic highs.” If women alone were deciding, he concluded, it would be obvious who would be occupying the White House, and his name isn’t Mitt. Silver’s research found a gender gap of 18 percent between men and women voters likely in the presidential election.

Eleanor Smeal, who has been focusing on the political behavior of women for four decades, notes in a recent articlethat women both register and vote at rates higher than their male counterparts, and are likely to cast 10 million more votes than men this year – more, even, than the 9.7 million more votes they cast in 2008. As far as the narrative of a swing state turnaround, Smeal isn’t buying it:

“More important than national polls, Obama is leading in swing states precisely because of the gender gap. In Ohio, for example, a newly released (October 31) Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS poll of likely voters has Obama leading 50% to 45% with 56% of women for Obama and only 44% of men, creating a 12% gender gap. According to the same poll, in Florida and Virginia, Obama is leading by a slight margin and is boosted by a 10% gender gap.”

And let’s take a look a closer look at Virginia. According to a new poll from Public Policy Polling, the gender gap is a driving force behind Obama’s 3-point lead over Romney in that state. As Business Insider reports:

“Obama leads by an incredible 17 points among Virginia women, who comprise 55 percent of PPP's sample. Meanwhile, Romney edges Obama by 16 points with men.”

So why all those Romney-tightens-gender-gap stories? As Sabrina Siddiqui and Mark Blumenthal point out, many stories made much of a Pew Research Center poll conducted immediately after the first debate, which showed a positive uptick for Romney among women voters, or, really, among all voters. However, Michael Dimock, associate director at Pew, was quoted in Siddiqui and Blumenthal's report as saying that if you analyze polling over the course of the year -- rather than just a good day for Romney -- this election looks to be much like those since 1980. That is to say, women will heavily favor Obama. A new Pew poll indicates as much, finding that 50 percent of likely women voters favor Obama, while only 44 percent who favor Romney.

Mostly, the stories about a tightening gender gap seem to come from an old truth: the press likes a story, and it loves a close election. But the notion that women are suddenly running into the arms of Mitt Romney is really just a tall tale.

And it's no wonder that Mitt is behind with women. He doesn't seem to get it on equal pay, or reproductive rights, or work-family balance, or many of the things that touch women's lives directly. Women have listened to Republican politicians spewing endless nonsense about about rape -- inlcuding this week's revelation that John Koster, the Republican running for Washington's 1st Congressional District seat, thinks that terminating a pregnancy caused by rape is "more violence on a woman's body." The inability of the GOP to "shut down that whole thing" with the rape comments has underscored the fact that the 1950s attitudes are simply too prevalent to squelch. This is the party Mitt Romney represents, and he can't hide it from women, no matter what the spin-meisters say.

















Lynn Parramore is an author and cultural theorist. Follow her on Twitter @LynnParramore. 


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