Margie Omero | January 30, 2008
Topics: 2008 , Barack Obama , Hillary Clinton , The 2008 Race
Although it hasn't stopped folks from trying, it's a little too early to tell how people will vote in the November general election. But primary turnout so far suggests that the gender gap is poised to increase.
The gender gap, which is the difference across gender in the vote for the winner, has existed in every presidential race since 1980. It was a high of 11 points in 1996, and a low of 4 points in 1992 (when Ross Perot was a viable 3rd party candidate). A good one-pager on the gender gap is here.
So far, in every single primary, women made up a much higher percentage of Democratic primary voters than Republican primary voters. As the table below shows, in South Carolina, 61% of Democratic primary voters were women. In the early Democratic contests, women were 57%.
By comparison, only in South Carolina (where apparently women love to vote!) did women make up about half of the Republican primary electorate. In most contests, women were clearly a smaller part of their process.
Further, I don't think this simply reflects Clinton encouraging new women voters (although that may be happening). For example, Florida, which is a closed primary state, showed one of the biggest dropoffs on the Republican side. Also, South Carolina, a state that Obama won decisively, had the highest female turnout of all the Democratic contests.
What should really concern Republicans is that in nearly every contest, the percentage of women participating in the primary dropped from 2000, the last time no incumbent was running. We don't have as many 2000 figures for the Democratic contests, but a trend seems to be emerging on the Republican side. Women are becoming even less likely to vote in Republican primary contests.
Does this mean that women will be even more likely to vote Democratic this November? Perhaps too early to say, but certainly turning out in a Democratic primary, or sitting out the Republican contest, are good first steps. We'll keep track of this metric, and report back if things change.