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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Gender Gap Still With Us

I pointed out back in June that men were more enthusiastic about voting in the midterm elections this year than were women -- even within party groups. I promised to return to this phenomenon later in the election cycle. So, here we are.

Analysis of our September tracking data shows that the basic pattern still holds, not substantially changed from what we found in June (and in the months previous). I looked at the 8,700+ interviews conducted with registered voters in the month of September. I found that 41% of men were very enthusiastic about voting in the midterm elections, compared with 28% of women. That’s a 13-percentage-point gender gap. This actually represents a modest increase of enthusiasm among men compared with June, when we measured 36% male enthusiasm. Women have stayed virtually the same across time, 27% very enthusiastic then, 28% now.  Thus, the gender gap has enlarged modestly.

The enthusiasm gap is particularly large among Republicans. Keep in mind that Republicans of most races, creeds, and ages are more enthusiastic than their counterparts who are Democrats. And keep in mind that enthusiasm among all Republicans has risen since June.

But Republican males are particularly more enthusiastic compared to Republican females. At this point in time (that is, September 2010) 56% of male Republicans are very enthusiastic about voting in the midterm elections, contrasted with 41% of female Republicans.

Compare that to the tepid levels of enthusiasm among Democrats in September. Here are the numbers: 32% enthusiasm among male Democrats, 25% among female Democrats. The gender gap is still there among Democrats, but more subdued than among the highly charged up Republicans. (There is a six-point gap among independents.)

These Gallup measures of voting enthusiasm are based on the responses to this question: "Are you enthusiastic or not enthusiastic about voting in this year’s midterm elections?”, with a follow up probe to ask if the respondent is very or somewhat enthusiastic.

By contrast, our procedures for calculating likely voters take into account the responses to seven separate questions:

1. Thought given to election (quite a lot, some)

2. Know where people in neighborhood go to vote (yes)

3. Voted in election precinct before (yes)

4. How often vote (always, nearly always)

5. Plan to vote in 2010 election (yes)

6. How certain to vote (absolutely certain)

7. Voted in last midterm election (yes)

Using these more sophisticated procedures to generate models of the likely electorate, we find a somewhat more subdued, but still extant, gender gap.

Among all registered voters in our Sept. 23-26 and Sept. 30-Oct. 3 polling, the gender distribution breaks 52% women, 48% men --mirroring the fact that there are more women than men in the American adult population (of which self-reported registered voters are a large part). Among likely voters, assuming a low turnout model for the moment, the gender composition flips, with a 52% male, 48% female composition. In other words, the group of Americans who are most likely to vote are more male than female.   We can expect to see more men than women voting for Congress across the 435 congressional districts this year -- unless things change significantly in the last month of the election cycle.

By the way, a look back to the 2008 presidential election shows there were more women than men in the final likely voter pool, by a 53% to 47% margin. In other words, the male gender skew in the midterm election this year (so far) is a change from the gender skew that we found in the last presidential election.

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