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Women’s Vote By the Numbers

November 6, 2008 | NeW Staff

The NeW Chapter at UVA Law met this past Wednesday.  Our discussion topic was the gender gap, specifically whether it exists.  It was particularly timely in light of the election.  Many people are suggesting that the gender gap was evident in this election,


“Women’s votes were a significant factor in Barack Obama’s victory, with a sizable gender gap evident in the election results, according to an analysis of exit poll data by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

Women strongly preferred Obama to McCain (56 percent for Obama, 43 percent for McCain) unlike men who split their votes about evenly for the two presidential candidates (49 percent for Obama, 48 percent for McCain).

Defined as the difference in the proportions of women and men voting for the winning candidate, the gender gap was 7 percentage points in 2008, with 56 percent of women versus 49 percent of men voting for Barack Obama. The gender gap this year is consistent with other presidential elections, where gender gaps have ranged from a high of 11 percentage points in 1996 to a low of 4 percentage points in 1992. There was a similar 7-point gender gap in the final vote in 2004.

Obama fared notably better with women voters in 2008 than did John Kerry in 2004. Obama won the support of a clear majority of women voters (56 percent) compared with Kerry’s very slim majority among women’s voters (51 percent). In contrast, McCain did worse with women voters, attracting only 43 percent of their votes, than did George W. Bush in 2004, who won 48 percent of women’s votes.”

During the Democratic primary, we heard much about Hillary Clinton’s ability to win the women’s vote.  These numbers show that there was not a monolithic women’s block that supported a female on a national ticket (Sarah Palin).  This is consistent with Geraldine Ferraro’s experience in 1984.  While this is not surprising, it is good to keep in mind when female candidates claim they can deliver the women’s vote.  Feminists pushed for Ferraro’s nomination based on this claim in 1984 and they made the argument again this year in supporting Hillary Clinton for Vice President.

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