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Missing: Republican Women Primary Voters

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%.

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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.

 

Comments
Dan Miller:

Re: "South Carolina, where women love to vote"--I believe this is due to the large number of African-American voters. From what I've seen, there is a participation gender gap amongst African-Americans much larger than that amongst whites.

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Margie Omero:

Sorry I wasn't more clear, Dan. The "joke" (I guess not so funny) referred to the fact that looking at all the primaries in all states, both SC primaries have a high % of women. Black voters only comprised 2% of the SC Republican primary.

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Kristen:

I suppose you could have headlined your article, "MIssing: Democratic Men Primary Voters" -- so why not?

Interesting bias.


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well...:

Maybe it's because men are turning out in record raw numbers in Dem primaries, so there's no problem?

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Melanie:

It's mostly women voting for Hillary, a few for Obama/Edwards.

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Dan:

It should be a very good race for President, and I am really hoping for a Hillary and Barack ticket for President. I think that they would be a winning combination! I really hope that Hillary chooses Barack as her vice president, or Barack chooses Hillary as his vice president. I think that they would be the Democrats very best chance for a win. The Democrats want to get our country out of this mess in Iraq. If the Republicans (Mcain or Romney) win the presidency in 2008 will there be a military draft?

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I always enjoy reading your posts, Margie.

Per the female turnout in Republican primaries - does it make a difference whether the primary is closed or open? Starting in the late '80s (post-Webster), the Republican party lost pro-choice women in droves... have there been progressively fewer women who are eligible to participate in Republican primaries? To what degree is the issue lesser turnout vs. lesser party membership?

I hope this question made sense. I'm pre-coffee right now.

Also, per the recent primary in New Hampshire - I don't recall if this was addressed previously, but given the discussion about the possibility that women planning to vote for Hillary were less likely to admit it to a pollster given the social pressure to be anti-Hillary, thereby screwing up the projections... has anyone looked at whether women voters are more or less likely to say they are planning to vote for Hillary depending on whether the caller is male or female? I know that sort of thing can skew responses to questions related to sexual and reproductive rights, but I haven't seen it mentioned with regard to this election.

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Bill Pierson:

Are (Republican) women allowed to cross party lines in a primary? Depends on whether you have a caucas or a secret ballot. Also, whether you allow Republicans to vote in Democratic primary.
Prediction: Caucas states go for Obama. Secret ballot states go for Hillary ONLY IF Republicans are allowed to vote in Dem Primary.
Conclusion: If Obama is nominated, he is far less likely to pull votes from the Republican side than Hillary would have been.

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