Opinion

Democrats, Not Republicans, Have A Gender Gap

J.T. Young Former Treasury Department and OMB Official

Don’t look now, but it’s Democrats, not Republicans, who have a gender gap. The reason you have not heard of it is that the Democrats’ gender-gap is with men. And that’s not Democrats’ only problem. The November midterms showed Democrats now have several exaggerated disadvantages with key voting blocs.

After Democrats’ war on women rhetoric against Republicans for the last several years, they had almost nothing to show for it this November. Despite all the issues on which Democrats cast themselves as better — such as abortion, health care, and pay equity — they got little separation from Republicans among women voters.

National exit polling (Edison Media Research) gave Democrats a thin 51 to 47 percent advantage over Republicans among women voters.

Women were a far more complex voting group than Democrat rhetoric implies. Race was more predictive than gender. Among white women, Republicans won overwhelmingly — 56 to 42 percent, while losing badly with Black and Hispanic women.

Another key indicator of voting was marital status.  Married women voted Republican 54 to 44 percent, with unmarried women going 60 to 38 percent for Democrats.

The real gender gap that November showed was actually among men, where Republicans trounced Democrats 57 to 41 percent — four times the margin that Democrats held with women.

Democrats’ problems were hardly limited to gender.

By political party, in addition to heavily losing Republican voters, Democrats also fared poorly with Independents — losing to Republicans 54 to 42 percent.

By education, Democrats won the extremes — those with no high school and those with college postgraduate education went for Democrats 54-44 and 53-45 percent, respectively.  However, Democrats lost to Republicans with high school grads (53-45 percent), voters with some college (54-44 percent), and college grads (54-44 percent).

By income, Democrats decisively won those making under $30,000 annually (59-39 percent), but just a bare majority (51-47 percent) of those earning between $30,000 and $50,000.  However, Republicans strongly won the middle class and up – $50,000-$100,000 (55-44 percent), $100,000-$200,000 (57-41 percent), and $200,000 and above (57-41 percent).

By region, Democrats were similarly isolated. Only in the East, did they win by a large margin — 55-43 percent.  In the West, where they are perceived to be strong, they barely won — 50-48 percent. In the Midwest (53-45 percent) and South (59-38 percent), they lost badly.

So why was the gender-gap so important when it described Republicans’ problem with women? Cynically, it could be said that it is because women are categorized, in terms of political correctness, as a “minority.” However electorally, the reason Republicans’ gender-gap with women is a problem is because women are consistently a majority of voters. If you want to win U.S. elections, you do not do it by coming in second with key voter groups.

And why are the Democrats’ gaps with voters by party, education, income, and region so important? For the same reason Republicans’ one with women had been: the gaps are large and they exist with a majority of the voters in these categories.

November proved Democrats have big gaps with a number of big groups. It goes well beyond just a gender-gap. Combined, these gaps create one huge political problem. And it is one that Democrats have just a little time — two years to be precise — to solve.

J.T. Young served in the Treasury Department and the Office of Management and Budget from 2001 to 2004 and as a Congressional staff member from 1987 to 2000)