Understanding the Gender Gap

Note: This post is also available on the Resurgent Republic website.

The discussion of the “War on Women” between the Democratic and Republican camps in the last few months focuses in large part on perceptions of a gender gap for Republicans. Recent elections have traditionally shown a gender gap on both sides of the aisle, with Republicans performing better among men and Democrats earning more support among women. The natural question in light of this spring’s discussion is whether the gender gap is worse for Republicans now or reflective of well-known challenges evidenced in recent years.

The gender gap was seen in 2008, with John McCain competitive among men (trailing Barack Obama 48-49 percent in exit poll results) but not competitive among women (trailing 43-56 percent). But that gender gap masks the effect of race. McCain won among both white men (57-41 percent) and white women (53-46 percent).

That surface gender gap remains in polling data now. For example, in Resurgent Republic’s May 2012 survey, men nominally favor Republicans on the congressional generic ballot 44-43 percent, while women prefer the generic Democrat by a 47-36 percent margin. By race, white men prefer a Republican by a 52-33 percent margin and white women prefer a Republican by a 44-39 percent margin, black men prefer a Democrat by an 85-9 percent margin and black women prefer a Democrat by an 85-3 percent margin; and Hispanic men prefer a Democrat by a 62-29 percent margin and Hispanic women prefer a Democrat by a 61-22 percent margin. So a gender gap is still seen among whites, but with support among both white men and white women.

There is a gender gap in views of President Obama as well, with men viewing him unfavorably (45 percent favorable-50 percent unfavorable) and women viewing him favorably (55-42 percent). White men and white women both give the President negative ratings, with white men giving the President a 36-59 percent favorable-unfavorable rating compared to a 47-49 percent rating among white women.

Looking at Resurgent Republic’s November 2011 survey indicates that any change since November is minor, with a slight improvement for congressional Democrats among white women (but not at the expense of congressional Republicans). Republicans still hold an advantage among Independent white women, although the margin has tightened somewhat from +13 in November (37-24 percent) to +5 today (35-30 percent).

The small gender gap among whites for congressional candidates disappears for several issues tested in the May 2012 survey. For example, men prefer a conservative view of fairness focused on eliminating crony capitalism and everyone paying their share over a liberal view focused on the rich paying their fair share by a 60-35 percent margin and women prefer a conservative view by a 59-34 percent margin.

Women agree with men on the statement that the way to reduce the deficit is to restrain government spending and reform our tax code to promote more growth, rather than that we must have more revenue if we are ever going to close the deficit and make the wealthy pay their fair share (51-41 percent among women and 54-39 percent among men). But women split on increasing capital gains taxes, with 45 percent agreeing that it makes no sense to raise capital gains taxes since it will reduce revenue for the government and 44 percent agreeing that we should raise taxes on capital gains for the wealthy, regardless of whether or not it will increase revenue for the government, because we need to ensure fairness. Men agree with the conservative view by a 49-42 percent margin.

Perhaps because President Obama is specifically named, there is a gender gap seen on energy as well, albeit one that shrinks when considering race. Women overall agree that President Obama’s energy policies have been good for the country by a 48-43 percent margin, while men agree that President Obama’s energy policies have been bad for the country by a 55-39 percent margin. White women agree that President Obama’s energy policies have been bad for the country by a 49-42 percent margin (53-39 among Independent white women, 12-78 among black women, and 41-53 among Hispanic women), while white men agree by a 62 to 33 percent margin (26-69 among black men and 38-53 among Hispanic men). Ultimately, the failed policies of any administration are laid at the president’s feet, but conservatives would do well to keep the focus on the policy as much as possible.

To the extent that the gender gap exists today, the left has done a better job pointing to conservatives’ “War on Women” as the cause. However, the timeline suggests that the gender gap today is relatively consistent with the political landscape from November of last year. That being said, Republicans should continue to closely measure any additional movement among Independent white women.

March 2012 Survey for YG Policy Center

Our March survey for the YG Policy Center, conducted with 1,000 registered voters nationally, focused on attitudes regarding the 2010 health care reform law.

The results show that, nearly two years after its passage, voters remain opposed to the health care reform law, are skeptical of its effects, and think President Obama’s claims about the law before its passage are not true.

Our presentation of the results can be seen here. An analysis memo written for the YG Network is available here, and the full results are available here.

Whit Ayres, February 14/Solyndra

Whit Ayres’ comments on the GOP message regarding Solyndra in the Associated Press:

“All of the sudden the companies that end up getting the grants are those who happen to be well politically connected,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster, explaining the GOP’s Solyndra message.

For the full article, please click here.

The Context of the Health Care Debate in 2012

Jon McHenry discusses the context of the health care debate in the 2012 elections.

Whit Ayres, January 24

Whit Ayres’ comments on the political environment in the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Romney has “had a bad couple of weeks,” said GOP pollster Whit Ayers. “But what we know about independents is that they move around even more quickly than Republicans these days. And just because independents move one way after a bad couple of weeks tells you nothing about where they will end up.”

Click here for the full text.

Winning Among Independent Women

Resurgent Republic has noted the similarities between Independents and Republicans on a host of issues since our first poll in 2009.  Conservatives have the upper hand with these voters for now, and the party best able to appeal to Independents in 2012 will win the White House and may well claim both chambers of Congress.

We largely expect Republican men and women, and Democratic men and women, to hold similar views regardless of gender.  An examination of our research from this year – specifically Independents by gender – shows that Republicans have the potential to expand their lead among Independents overall by maximizing their potential among Independent women.

According to our most recent survey, Independent women are less conservative (34 percent) than Independent men (44 percent), and currently favor Republicans by smaller margins than men on the presidential ballot (42 to 35 percent versus 44 to 29 percent) and the generic congressional ballot (34 to 32 percent versus 38 to 26 percent among men).  While Independent women have the same views of Republicans in Congress as men (34 to 56 percent favorable to unfavorable, compared to 32 to 58 percent among men) they hold Democrats in somewhat higher regard (35 to 52 percent, compared to 26 to 64 percent).  Regarding the Tea Party, Independent men split (44 to 43 percent) while Independent women view the movement unfavorably (36 to 48 percent).

But opinion on a number of questions shows that Independent women could move to the same levels of Republican support seen among Independent men.  Independent women, for example, are more likely to say the economy is worse now than when President Obama took office (70 percent versus 61 percent among Independent men), say the federal government’s financial situation is worse (77 percent versus 70 percent), and say their own personal financial situation is worse (40 percent versus 27 percent).

While Independent women are more likely to say President Obama is an outsider trying to change the way Washington works (52 to 37 percent, with men saying he is an insider who is part of the way Washington works by a 49 to 40 percent margin), a plurality thinks the President is more interested in campaigning against Republicans (47 to 40 percent, compared to 58 to 35 percent among men).  And Independent women are just as likely as Independent men to disapprove of the job the President is doing (52 to 44 percent compared to 54 to 42 percent among men); in fact, Independent women are moving away from the President, having split on his job performance in January (47 percent approved and 46 percent disapproved).

Independent women are split on President Obama’s jobs bill (47 percent agree with a statement supporting it while 46 percent agree with a statement opposing it) while Independent men oppose it by a 48 to 43 percent margin.  But Independent women oppose the mortgage proposal (49 to 41 percent, compared to 55 to 36 percent among men) and agree it is a higher priority to spend less to reduce the deficit rather than spend more to help the economy (by a 59 to 34 percent margin, similar to the 58 to 35 percent margin among men).

Conservatives can win among Independent women by making the case that their approach to the economy and government spending will be more successful than President Obama’s approach, considering these women overwhelmingly say things are worse now than when the President took office.  When making that case, conservatives should:

  • Keep the discussion of entitlements focused on saving the programs for the future.  While we’ve noted this in the past, it’s particularly important among Independent women: these voters support a liberal position on entitlements when the conservative focus is on the budget (59 to 33 percent), but support the conservative position stating that “Congressman B says Social Security is in real trouble because of so many retiring baby boomers.  We can save Social Security with minor benefit adjustments for people age 55 and under, and we should do that now rather than wait until the program faces a crisis.” by a 56 to 37 percent margin.  Independent men agree with conservatives regardless of the message on entitlements (August survey).
  • Emphasize a goal of allowing people to buy health insurance across state lines (supported 74 to 20 percent among Independent women in January) and the unfairness of the individual mandate (supported 57 to 34 percent) when talking about the current health care law and what should replace it (January survey).  While Independent women agreed with other conservative positions on health care as well – opposing the new law by a 53 to 32 percent margin, for example – these are the two strongest points with them (November survey).
  • On energy, emphasize offshore drilling more than the expansion of nuclear power.  While Independent women split with Independent men on nuclear power (men agree with a conservative position for more nuclear power by a 64 to 29 percent margin and women agree with a liberal position against it by a 47 to 42 percent margin), both Independent women (60 to 34 percent) and men (64 to 32 percent) agree that we need “more offshore drilling to create jobs and make us less dependent on foreign oil” (January survey).

Potholes On The Road To Supercommittee Success

For several years, voters have looked at Washington and said, “Why can’t they do anything?”  The easy answer is that partisan politics gets in the way.  That’s the portrayal by the media.  It’s certainly the picture painted by the President, notwithstanding the point that “We can’t wait” is a much weaker reelection mantra than “Morning in America.”

But what would success look like in the eyes of voters?  Does it mean raising taxes?  In our November survey, we phrased the liberal argument on taxes as:

Congressman A says that Congress needs to take a balanced approach to our debt problem by raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations.  They should pay their fair share by giving up tax breaks and special deductions.

Against this language, we tested two conservative responses:

Congressman B says this is the wrong time to raise taxes on anyone. Higher taxes mean more money going to the government, and less money in the economy that businesses can use to hire workers and create new jobs.

Congressman B says this is the wrong time to raise taxes on anyone.  The top ten percent of earners already pay over two-thirds of all federal income taxes, while nearly half of Americans pay no federal income tax, and U.S. companies pay a thirty-five percent tax rate, more than most European countries.

The overall results are similar, with voters preferring the liberal argument by a 54 to 42 percent margin over the conservative argument focused on the economy, and by a 53 to 43 percent margin over the conservative argument focused on current shares of the tax burden.  Looking at Independents, the tax share argument works better, managing a virtual split at 48 to 46 percent liberal/conservative compared to a 53 to 44 percent margin for the economy argument.

This difference is a reminder that our September survey showed voters actually think that “fair share” should be smaller than what it is now and the higher rate the President supports moving forward.  So while voters may have an appetite for a different tax structure, it is not an appetite for higher tax rates.

Does success mean letting the defense cuts go into effect?  We asked voters which statement they preferred on cuts in defense spending:

Congressman A says cutting the defense budget along with domestic spending is necessary given our debt crisis.  There is wasteful spending in the military, and it is time to cut back our military presence overseas.

Congressman B says cutting the defense budget is a mistake.  Providing a strong national defense is the most important function of the federal government, and we need to be sure our military has all the resources it needs in a dangerous world.

Voters prefer the latter statement by a 52 to 42 percent margin overall, including a 54 to 40 percent margin among Independents.  Similarly, voters who are undecided on the  generic congressional ballot oppose defense cuts by a 52 to 39 percent margin.  Voters in swing states (defined here as AZ, CO, NM, IA, WI, MI, OH, PA, NC, VA, FL, and NH) oppose defense cuts by the same 52 to 39 percent margin while voters in solid Democratic states (any states won both by President Obama and John Kerry that are not included above) split with 49 percent agreeing that we need defense cuts and 48 percent agreeing that these cuts would be a mistake.

Voters have been clear that it is a higher priority for the government to “spend less to reduce the budget deficit” rather than “spend more to help the economy recover,” with voters currently preferring spending less by a 54 to 40 percent margin.  Independents say spending less is a higher priority by a 58 to 35 percent margin, agreeing with Republicans (78 to 20 percent) and disagreeing with Democrats (who say spending more is a higher priority by a 63 to 30 percent margin).

Our September survey also showed that voters are far more concerned that the supercommittee would “make too few spending cuts and Washington will continue to spend money it doesn’t have” than “make too many spending cuts that will harm economic recovery and hurt the country” (by a 51 to 36 percent margin).  Independents are even stronger in that sentiment, being more concerned about cutting too little by a 55 to 31 percent margin.  The road ahead is challenging, but appealing to Independents means keeping a focus on reduced spending.

To see the original post on Resurgent Republic’s website, click here.

The Right Way To Talk About Entitlements

Published on March 30, 2011 | Resurgent Republic | Jon McHenry

Much of our most recent survey focused on budget issues.  Two questions specifically touched on entitlements, and together make a powerful point about how conservatives can talk about entitlements while maintaining support among a majority of voters.

The first question puts the conservative discussion of entitlements in the context of budget deficits:

Congressman A says we should not balance the budget on the backs of our seniors and the poor.  We need to cut back federal spending, but Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid should be off limits. 

Congressman B says we will never get the deficit under control without dealing with Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid,  because those three programs make up more than half of all federal domestic spending.

In this framing, voters agree with Congressman A by a 53 to 41 percent margin.  Independents agree with Congressman A by a similar margin, 51 to 43 percent, with Democrats agreeing by a 71 to 23 percent margin.  Republicans agree with Congressman B by a 59 to 35 percent margin.  Women agree with Congressman A by a 60 to 32 percent margin while men agree with Congressman B by a 51 to 45 percent margin.

The second question puts the conservative discussion of entitlements in the context of preserving the programs for the future:

Congressman A says Social Security will not face budget problems until 2037, so we need to focus our attention on our immediate budget problems and leave Social Security alone.  Take Social Security off the table.   

Congressman B says Social Security is in real trouble because of so many retiring baby boomers. We can save Social Security with minor benefit adjustments for people age 55 and under, and we should do that now rather than wait until the program faces a crisis.

In this context, voters overall agree with reform-minded conservatives by a 54 to 39 percent margin, with the same 54 to 39 percent margin seen among Independents.  Republicans agree by a 70 to 23 percent margin while Democrats agree with Congressman A by a 51 to 40 percent margin.  Where there is a split by gender on the first framing of reform, both men (by a 59 to 34 percent margin) and women (by a 50 to 42 percent margin) agree with Congressman B in this context.

American voters are open to entitlement reform, but the emphasis needs to be on preserving the programs for the future rather than addressing current deficits.

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