Monthly Archives: January 2012

On the NJ Gender Gap

As we begin the new semester here at Eagleton, we have some interesting gender gap numbers for the presidential race, courtesy of an analysis done by one of our undergraduate students, Francesca Conti. Francesca interned with us this past fall semester, serving as our communications intern. She did a great job, and is now off on a study abroad opportunity for Spring 2012.

 

On the NJ Gender Gap in 2012

With the GOP primaries taking place at the 2012 Election fast approaching, candidates are interested in receiving support wherever they can find it.  As candidates vie for the support from all groups, one particular focus is on female voters. And while we tend to think of politics as male-dominated, which it is, women are in fact often a majority of those who cast a vote. Women tend to turn out at a higher rate than men, all else equal. And with the Republican field now down to all men, this seems particularly interesting. So how are the candidates (both Republicans and President Obama) doing on this score?

The Gender Gap has been described as difference in the percentage of women and the percentage of men voting for a given candidate (CAWP). Our last New Jersey survey on the Republican nomination (in December) asked Republican and leaning-Republican voters to tell us who they support for the nomination to run against President Obama. Overall, 28 percent named Mitt Romney, while 20 percent supported Newt Gingrich. Ron Paul was a distant third at 5 percent, while 38 percent did not name a candidate.

But gender seems to play a role even in the Republican primary. One third of men supported Romney, compared to only 21 percent of women. Similar effects show up for Gingrich, with 21 percent of men but 15 percent of women. Ron Paul, on the other hand, gets only 4 percent from men, but 8 percent from women.

What accounts for these differences among Republican men and women? Well nearly half of Republican women did not name any candidate they support at this point, compared to 28 percent of men. At this stage in the race, Republican women in New Jersey are simply not engaged by most of the candidates to the same extent as men.

Turning to the general election, we asked all voters about three match-ups: Obama vs. Romney, Obama vs. Paul, and Obama vs. Gingrich. Romney does best among NJ women, but it is still a pretty poor showing: 55 percent said they would vote for President Obama, while 25 percent chose Romney. The race is much tighter among men, with 46 percent supporting Obama and 39 percent Romney. Similar gaps exist for Ron Paul (Women: 56 percent Obama, 20 percent Paul; Men: 43 percent Obama, 39 percent Paul) and Newt Gingrich (Women: 58 percent Obama, 21 percent Gingrich; Men: 49 percent Obama, 34 percent Gingrich.)

These results see a clear and persistent gender gap in the campaign so far. The gap exists among Republican women, with nearly half having no preference yet, and among all women in the general election. No matter who is the frontrunner for the Republicans, at this time the majority of NJ women voters would choose President Obama. This is not really surprising, as the Democratic coalition is heavily tilted toward women and minority voters. It appears that it will be difficult for Republican candidates to capture the NJ women’s vote, with Romney losing women by 30 points, Paul by 36 points, and Gingrich by 37 points. To win New Jersey any Republican candidate is going to have to do better than that among women voters.

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More perspectives from our students

As with most academic institutions, we have been on break here at Eagleton during the holidays. We hope our readers have had a great holiday season and have started the new year on the right foot. And we’ll be back soon with more polling results.

As we get ready to start the semester next week, we want to provide some more perspectives from the undergraduate students working with the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. As an academic survey center, one of our primary missions is teaching, and as part of that mission we have a group of undergraduate interns who work with us on various aspects of our polling operations.

Today’s post comes from Abdul Rehman Khan, who is a Rutgers undergraduate and an Aresty Research Assistant for us this year. Abdul has been working on a number of internal initiatives for us. He wrote the following post based on his perspective looking at some of our polling numbers as they came in over the semester.

 

Minority Rights through Democracy and Polling
Abdul Rehman Khan

 Through my political science classes, the concept of democracy has been a very elusive and abstract ideal.  The concept varies even among political philosophers.  Many of us in America assume democratic ideals are met by a citizen’s ability to participate and contest issues and elections. Once the election is done however, we seem to be told the the opinions and rights of the majority ought be the decisions for all.  Gerald F. Gaus, in Contemporary Theories of Liberalism writes, “According to Thomas Jefferson, in collections of people self-government requires following a collection of wills expressed by the majority.”  We are raised in this type of thinking of majority-rule system—this is what democracy means to us and to our founding fathers.  Consequently, with this mindset, polling allows for democratic ideals to become more tangible—whether we are polling immediately for elections results, polling for changes in opinions, or polling in my 5th grade classroom to see if we wanted to play kickball before or after lunch.  In this sense, polling allows for a political theory to become quantifiable.

Yet, a democracy is far more significant than a majority-rule system.  The very essence of a democracy lies in its ability to defend the rights and opinions of the minority against the rights or opinions of the majority.   Is the notion of polling then invalidated; why do we poll?  Is the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, and every other survey research institution, simply a larger and more complicated version of that 5th grade classroom?

At first, this is what I thought.  But while working with the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, I realized most of the time spent in tallying up the results of a poll seems to me to  go in the accurate counting of the minority positions.  Subsequently, most of the time goes into noticing how minority positions have changed.  Polling is often pointless if we’re just looking at the majority vote—more often than not, we know it.  Polling becomes interesting when we see how the minority vote has become stronger or has given way to a majority opinion.  Majority opinions and groups may have been minorities at one point or another; polling tracks this.  True, polling is used by majorities to justify their position, but it is just as significant for minorities to view their relative significance and change mainstream support.  Therefore, the fault of this mindset lies not within the implication of our poll, but within our own thinking.

Critics of polling like Iris Young write a democracy should be a “maximum expression of interests, opinions, and perspectives relevant to the problems or issues for which a public seeks solutions.”  Young says that democracy should not be an aggregative addition of preferences.  However from polling we are able to note the various differences in expression of opinions.  Polling is always the first step and polling gives the minority just as much justification as the majority.  Polling therefore becomes crucial for minorities so that their opinions can be expressed.  We ought to not blame the pervasiveness of polling in our society for our simplistic thinking of a democracy.  Instead, we should augment our own thinking, viewing a democracy not from the light of the majority but from  the light of a minority.  With this mindset, polling becomes much more noteworthy.  Polling is what you make of it and in whichever way you view a democracy.

Thus, polling allows for democratic ideals to become tangible.  More significantly, however, polling can in its own right, allow for different notions of democracy.  It is, then, our decision to choose the one we feel is right.

 

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