The gender gap widens. But not exactly for the expected reasons.The main point to pull out of the Gallup/USA Today poll released Monday that put President Barack Obama at a 4-percentage point advantage over likely Republican challenger Mitt Romney is his growing advantage among women.
Obama now leads Romney by a two-to-one count — 60 per cent to 30 per cent — among women under 50. This significantly helped Obama take a 9-point lead over Romney in 12 key swing states, though that overall lead is misleading.
The gender gap is nothing new. But it is continuing to grow from a similar point in 2008. The Gallup poll follows a March study by the Pew Research centre, which found that Obama holds a 20-percentage point lead on Romney among all women voters, and an astounding 31-point lead over Romney among women voters under 50.
“The focus on contraception has not been a good one for us … and Republicans have unfairly taken on water on this issue,” Sara Taylor Fagen, a Republican strategist and former political adviser to President George W. Bush, told USA Today in response to the poll.
It’s the contraception issue, right? Mitt Romney saying he would get rid of Planned Parenthood? The controversy over mandatory invasive ultrasound bills popping up in some states? In general, that whole waging a “war on women?” Well, not exactly.
Carroll Doherty, the associate director at the Pew Research centre, told Business Insider in a phone interview that the issues the Obama administration has pushed as the GOP’s “war on women” are not prominent to women voters.
“It’s not been a top-tier issue,” Doherty said. “It’s lagging in importance, behind the economy. So at this stage, you’d have to say the gender gap is being driven for the most part by more traditional issues.”
In fact, the social issue that most turns women away from the Republican Party is same-sex marriage. But there was virtually no gender gap, for example, on the issue of abortion. And according to the Gallup/USA Today poll, the vast majority of those polled said they didn’t know enough about each candidate’s views on contraception to say whether or not they agreed.
The big gap lies in genders’ differing roles of a government’s role in society. More women think that the government should play a more active role in societal issues than men, such as helping the poor ( by 9 percentage points), helping children (10 points) and helping the elderly (11 points).
“It’s very interesting, the kind of pattern,” Doherty said. “The big one this year is in terms of what the government should be doing. There’s certainly more support among women than among men for an activist government that does more to help the poor, help the elderly. That’s one issue where the gender divide is pretty significant. On the social issues, it surprises people that there’s not much of a gap.”
Back to the social issues: Doherty said it will be interesting to monitor how it could affect the election as the race continues.
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