He Said, She Said. Gender Gap or Marriage Gap?

“Hi honey. You voted for Trump, right?” he asks next Tuesday.

“Don’t be silly. Of course I did,” she says, lying.

What is the estimated number of conversations like this next week? A million? Five million? Even more? As the day approaches, we seem to be heading for the largest gender gap in the history of presidential election voting.

According to a summary from NPR today:

Women have voted far more heavily Democratic than men in presidential elections since 1996, and the biggest gap thus far has been in 2000, when women preferred Al Gore over George W. Bush by 10 points, while men chose Bush over Gore by 11 points — a 21-point total gap. This year's gender gap could be even wider, if recent polls are any guide. An average of three recent national polls shows that women prefer Clinton by roughly 13 points, while men prefer Trump by 12, totaling a 25-point gap.

And the Atlantic noted that this election is dividing not just men from women in general, but also particular married couples to a greater degree than before. “According to Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, in previous elections, ‘Being married constrained the gender gap. A lot of women agreed with their husbands.’ Today, she said, ‘Married men and married women have been disagreeing more. Married women report being hammered by their husbands to vote the same way, earlier than in the past.'"

But the gender gap among married people is smaller than Clinton’s lead among unmarried women. A recent Fox News poll puts her lead at +27 among unmarried women. That’s why the Voter Participation Center emphasizes not the gender gap but the “marriage gap.” Unmarried women are actually now a slightly bigger group than married women, although they usually do not vote as regularly as married women.

In other words, if married women break for Clinton in higher numbers than anticipated (due to the secrecy of the voting booth), and unmarried women turn out to vote in higher numbers than anticipated (due to disgust with Trump’s misogyny and the historic opportunity to vote for a woman), the gender gap plus marriage gap could produce once-in-a-lifetime results.

In addition to the data, let me add a small anecdote. Yesterday I had an op-ed in The Washington Post about Trump and the dark side of golf culture—especially its misogyny. With a publicly available email address and Twitter handle, I’ve come to expect angry feedback from whatever I write. But the feedback to this one has fallen exactly along gender lines.

This supports what NPR rightly notes, that the gender gap of this election may not primarily be the result of “Clinton pulling women into her camp” as much as “Trump pushing them out of his. Even reliably conservative voters like white evangelical women find themselves repulsed by his overt sexism and comments about assaulting women.”

And Trump's troubles in Utah relate primarily to defections from Mormon women, seven of whom offered their perspectives in this New York magazine profile. A representative quote that must cause ulcers for GOP strategists: "Abortion is probably the thing that would hold me up the most in voting for Hillary. But if there wasn’t anyone else, I would most likely vote for her, because I can’t put somebody like Trump in the White House." Ardent pro-life Mormon women in Utah literally "can't put somebody like" the Republican nominee in the White House.

So can a Republican actually win a national election with flagging support from evangelical women, Mormon women, and even women at country clubs?

Of course he can, she says, lying.

 

Michael Peppard is associate professor of theology at Fordham University and on the staff of its Curran Center for American Catholic Studies. He is the author of The World's Oldest Church and The Son of God in the Roman World, and on Twitter @MichaelPeppard. He is a contributing editor to Commonweal.

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