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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