Wednesday, March 07, 2012

We're Suffering Their Suffrage

Both Parties Are Facing a Growing Gender Gap:

In sum, those findings suggest that the gender gap this year could be, if anything, wider than it has been in recent years. The impact on both the tactics and the substance of the campaign is potentially profound.

Andrew Kohut, head of the Pew Research Center, says the gender gap began emerging during the 1980s, driven by a split over Ronald Reagan's assertive foreign policy, but also by a debate over the role of government. Then, as now, women tended to favor a larger role for government programs than do men, an attitude that naturally pulls them a bit more Democratic.

But Mr. Kohut notes that the gap also is being driven by the Republican primary campaign's focus in recent weeks on social issues, and particularly by the debate over whether the government should require insurance coverage of contraception in employer insurance policies, as the Obama administration has ordered. On those issues, women tend to agree more with the administration, which is why the White House has been so eager to frame the contraception coverage issue as a debate about women's health rather than social policy.

The "elevation" of social issues "certainly helps the Democrats, and helps Obama, among women," Mr. Kohut says. Mr. Obama himself, at a news conference Tuesday, said the advantage comes mostly because Democrats "have a better story to tell to women about how we're going to solidify the middle class and grow this economy."

The reverse problem for Democrats, of course, is that they would like to figure out how to attract the votes of men, particularly working-class men, where they are weakest. It won't be easy. Men tend to be more skeptical of the Democrats' health-care overhaul, and more concerned about federal deficits, than are women. Democrats will try to reassure men on both counts.

In the end, though, the gender gap is a slightly bigger problem for Republicans than for Democrats for a simple reason: Women tend to vote in higher numbers. In 2008, for example, 53% of the total turnout was female, and in 2010 it was 52%. So, in a close race -- which 2012 figures to be -- the advantage lies with the gender that shows up in greater numbers.

This definitely presents a sticky wicket for the GOP and I'm not sure what the answer is. Nationwide shoe sales on election day? Move all the polling places and provide maps that requires voters to find them? Institute a new poll test that requires you to demonstrate that you don't throw like a girl (which could open other complications when it comes to discrimination)?

Like I said, there are no easy answers. Meanwhile, I'm going to get busy designing a new bumper sticker that I expect will be in high demand after this year's election:

Don't Blame Me--I'm A Man