On Friday, Gallup released the results of a survey that showed a significant gender gap in voter preference during the presidential election. In fact, the gender gap in 2012 was the largest in the history of the polling agency.
President Barack Obama won the 2012 presidential election because his campaign was able to reach out and appeal to multiple demographics in the electorate, including women voters. Mitt Romney polled fine with married women, but Obama took the single female vote by an overwhelming double digit margin.
The president secured the overall female vote by twelve percentage points, fifty-six percent to forty-four percent, according to Gallup’s pre-election results. Mitt Romney took the male vote by a lesser margin, fifty-four percent to forty-six percent. The difference between the lead in female voters and the deficit in male voters for the Democratic candidate was an astounding twenty points.
The results of the Gallup survey should not be seen as an indicator of overall voter turnout among male and female voters. The results show the deficit or lead the Democratic candidate in a presidential election had with both gender demographics.
In 1984, the last time the gender gap came close to twenty points, Democratic candidate Walter Mondale had big deficits among both male and female voters in the pre-election results. Incumbent President Ronald Reagan won the overall male vote by twenty-eight points and the female vote by ten points.
The election wasn’t even close that year. President Reagan carried every state, except for Minnesota and the District of Columbia, and won the popular vote by roughly 16.9 million votes.
According to Gallup, President Obama actually did better with female voters in 2008 against John McCain. He won this segment of the voting age population by fourteen percentage points, but there wasn’t a deficit or lead among male voters. Therefore, the gender gap was six points less in 2008 than it was in 2012.
However, the fact that Obama won the female vote by double digits in both presidential elections indicates that the GOP has not been very successful in reaching out to women in the last four years. It is just one of a few segments of the voting age population that helped propel the president to victory over his GOP opponent.
The American electorate is changing. There has been an increase in younger voters and a decrease in older voters. There are more eligible voters in minority groups than ever before. As the demographics in the voting age population shift and the priorities of a new generation of voter change, the mainstream party that is able to adapt to these changes will come out on top.
The Democratic Party has been successful in reaching out to female voters, to young voters, and to minority voters. The GOP continues to wage an internal battle over what direction the party will move. The longer they hold on to more traditional ideas, the less likely they will be able to swing voters that are becoming more important to reach out to.
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The GOP has some major work to do before 2016 if they want to remain one of the top two parties. And women are just one of the groups they must pay close attention to. They can't effectively get the female vote without changing some of their "traditional" (arguably outdated) stances on womens rights.
Garnering the female vote will be another challenge for the GOP moving forward. I'm not sure if the party is going to be willing to compromise some of their platform stances that might be unattractive to single, female voters.
This move will be interesting to watch, as the emergence of the Tea Party has strengthened alot of the more conservative "traditional" stances. But I think that this election cycle has proven that a majority of Americans are ready for a change.