By Elizabeth Kantor
Elizabeth Kantor, a junior at Rutgers University, is the Lead Data Archivist and a methodological intern with the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling.
In voting behavior and political attitudes, there exist consistent and predictable differences between men and women, known as the “gender gap.” According to the Eagleton Institute of Politics’ own Center for American Women and Politics, since the 1980s, women have been more likely than men to identify as and vote for Democrats, less likely than men to approve of the job performance of Republicans, and more likely than men to approve of the job performance of Democrats. Yet New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie seems to defy the odds once again. In our own numbers on the governor’s overall job approval from our most recent Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, the gender gap seems nonexistent. As we reported, 50 percent of women in New Jersey approve of Christie’s job performance compared to 47 percent of men – a statistically insignificant difference that runs counter to gender gap expectations.
But in actuality, the gender gap is not a simple dichotomy. When Christie’s job approval is broken down by race and gender simultaneously, a more accurate interpretation of the gender gap emerges. This kind of analysis, resembling an analytical approach in women’s and gender studies called “intersectionality,” looks at the impact of the intersections of multiple identities, such as race, class, and gender, rather than of each identity alone.
As noted earlier, when looking solely at gender, women are more likely than men to say they approve of Christie’s job performance. When Christie’s approval is looked at solely by race, 55 percent of white New Jerseyans approve, compared with only 34 percent of non-white New Jerseyans; we would expect this, given that Republicans are less racially diverse than are Democrats. When looking at race and gender together, we find that while 57 percent of white women approve of Christie’s job performance compared to 53 percent of white men, only 28 percent of non-white women approve of Christie’s job as governor compared to 39 percent of non-white men.
Thus, the lack of a gender gap in Christie’s job approval can be explained by the fact that, while non-white women are 11 points less likely than non-white men to express approval of Christie, gender differences function in the opposite direction for white respondents, who make up a larger portion of the weighted sample (69 percent white vs. 31 percent non-white); thus, white women have more than twice as much influence on the overall distribution of opinion. While of course only limited conclusions can be drawn due to small sample sizes, intersectional analysis sheds light on how race and gender interconnect to create a more complete picture of New Jersey voters’ views of their governor, specifically, and on political figures and issues, more generally.
Results are from a statewide poll of 842 New Jersey residents contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Sept. 29 to Oct. 5, 2014. This release reports on a subsample of 734 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 4.2 percentage points.