Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Sobering Look at Past Exit Polls in Light of Recent GOP Misogyny

Over the past few days, we've seen a number of misogynistic comments coming out of the GOP. Whether we're talking about the Texas GOP's attacks on Wendy Davis, Rep. Steve Pearce's belief that women should voluntarily submit to their husbands, or Mike Huckabee's Uncle Sugar comment, we've seen that the GOP is not very good at talking respectfully about women. This, combined with their policies, has driven the "war on women" frame adopted by the Democratic Party.

However, a look at exit polling highlights the sobering fact that many women, particularly white women and married women, like the GOP just fine.

In 2012, Romney beat Obama among white women 56% to 42%, a margin of 14 points. And that's not unusual, as the exit polling done by the New York Times shows.

As you can see, Bill Clinton was the only Democrat between 1972 and 2012 to have beaten a Republican among white women. He tied George H. W. Bush in 1992 and beat Bob Dole in 1996. However, in 1996, he still didn't have a majority of white women, only a plurality (akin to his share of the general popular vote as well).

That chart, however, does show that a significant gap between white men and white women began to emerge in the 1980s.

1972: +2 Republican
1976: +2 Republican
1980: +14 Democrat
1984: +11 Democrat
1988: +14 Democrat
1992: +3 Democrat
1996: +16 Democrat
2000: +23 Democrat
2004: +14 Democrat
2008: +9 Democrat

There has also been a gap between black men and black women (an average of about 14 points, a bigger gap than between white men and white women), although Obama largely erased that gap in 2008.

Let's look at two Senate races from 2012 in which the GOP candidate's comments about women played a significant role: Missouri and Indiana. During the lead-up to those elections, I remember hearing many people say that they could not imagine how any woman could vote for a candidate like Todd Akin or Richard Mourdock.


In Missouri, Claire McCaskill beat Todd Akin 55% to 39%.

McCaskill had a 22% lead with female voters:

However, her lead quickly dissipates when we look at sub-demographics.

For example, McCaskill only beat Akin by 5% among white female voters:

Among married women, McCaskill's lead over Akin shrunk to 1%. Given the nature of exit polling, we should probably call that a statistical tie.

Given those numbers, I think we can infer that Todd Akin won a majority of married white women.
This race did, however, contrast sharply with the presidential race. The Senate race saw a 34 point shift to the left among white women, 32 points among married women, and 29 points among unmarried women compared to the presidential race. The corresponding male categories shifted 22, 16, and 28, respectively.


In Indiana, Joe Donnelly beat Richard Mourdock 50% to 44%.

Donnelly won female voters overall by 12 points:

He only won the vote of white women by 2 points:

And he lost the vote of married women by 4 points:

This race did, however, contrast with the presidential race.  The Senate race saw
20 point shift to the Democrats among white women, 15 points among married women, and 15 points among unmarried women compared to the presidential race and the Senate race. The corresponding male categories shifted 16, 22, and 10, respectively.

These shifts are interesting when you realize how little difference there was in policy terms between these Republicans and Romney.

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