Despite stereotypes, men are actually more fickle at the voting booth.
by Libby Copeland – Salon.com
This election cycle, as with just about every other, there is considerable handwringing about where the women voters will land. Which candidate will alienate women and which one will say just the right things? (And what do women want to hear, anyway?) Among the GOP candidates, Newt Gingrich’s woman problem has been especially chewed over; there’s the matter of his cheating and his three marriages, not to mention the condescending way he’s spoken of Michele Bachmann. Perhaps in desperation to connect with that mysterious species of voter, the Woman, the candidate’s efforts recently yielded the headline: “Gingrich Sheds Tears in Meeting with Iowa Mothers.”
But why do women vote differently than men? For decades women have been more closely aligned with the Democratic Party and men more likely to identify as Republicans. And even among a single-party electorate, there is variation between the sexes. We know from Iowa entrance polls, for instance, that Ron Paul placed third despite having much more support from male voters, whereas Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney achieved their virtual tie by winning over more women than men. As predicted, Gingrich fared poorly with women, though in fairness he faired almost as poorly with men.
The gender gap—the difference between how men and women vote—represents on average a seven point gulf between the sexes during presidential elections. Though there was evidence of some voting differences between the genders as far back as the 1960s, many political scientists date the emergence of the modern gender gap to the 1980 election, which served as the culmination of years of change in women’s lives. By then more women were working, more were single and living on their own. The women’s movement reinforced the growing sense that women’s political interests could and should be different than those of their husbands and fathers.