In the aftermath of the 2016 election, the focus has frequently turned to vote choice by Americans of different genders. Many emerged from Election Day–and after observing exit poll data–surprised that there wasn’t a larger disparity in vote choice between men and women. More startling was that fact that white women gave the majority of their vote (52-43) to Donald Trump, who did and said things that many people thought would disqualify him in the eyes of women.
Race is the demographic variable that most dictates political behavior, and not surprisingly it sheds light on some of the gender differences in voting patterns beyond just among whites. For example, Joshua Ulibarri wrote about how in the 2016 election, as well as in earlier elections and ballot initiatives, men have voted less Democratic than women among Latinos.
I wanted to check whether past voting data would bear out this pattern, and whether intra-racial gender disparities in vote choice varied across different groups. I was able to do this by using 2008 and 2012 data from the American National Election Survey, which unlike in previous years, included an oversample of blacks and Latinos/Hispanics to make for more certain vote choice estimates. The below 3×2 graph shows the percentage that males and females in each of the three largest racial/ethnic groups voted for the Democratic candidate, the Republican candidate, or another candidate in the previous two election years:
Beyond just intra-racial gender vote differences, it’s important to note that white women voting for Republicans is far from a new phenomenon that materialized in 2016. White females preferred John McCain to Barack Obama by about a nine-point margin in 2008, and opted for Mitt Romney by about a 10-point margin 2012.
Among whites, women have always voted more Democratic and less Republican than men in the last two election cycles. The same pattern comes up when looking at gender vote choice within Hispanics only: Hispanic women vote more Democratic than Hispanic men do. All blacks vote Democratic at very high rates, but the gender difference flips a bit between the 2008 and 2012 elections. To get a better understanding of these differences, I plot the gender difference in Democratic support–female percentage Democratic vote minus male percentage Democratic vote–below:
In 2008, white females supported Obama 6.6 percentage points more than white males did. The disparity proved even larger among Hispanics: female Hispanics voted for Obama 10.7 percentage points more than male Hispanics did. Curiously, the difference is reversed among blacks–black males voted Obama 1.2 points more than black females did–but the separation is too small to make much of.
In 2012, the gender differences become a lot more similar across different races. Relative to men in their respective racial groups, white women voted 6.0 points more Democratic, black women voted 6.4 points more Democratic, and Hispanic women voted 4.9 points more Democratic. Thus, even when controlling for race, women vote more Democratic than men do among all voters. In 2012, ANES data shows that the gender differences by race settled at around the same amount among each racial group.
ANES data has not yet come out for 2016, but we still have the lesser quality (see bottom of this post) but still valuable exit polls from which to glean information–and check for intra-racial gender differences in vote choice again. Here’s the story 2016 exit polls tell for this topic:
According to exit poll data, the intra-racial gender gap seems to have grown in this past election. The gender difference among whites became 12 points, among blacks it was 12 points, and among Hispanics it was smaller at only six points. In light of this more recent data, perhaps the salience of gender-related issues–given Trump’s history and campaign comments and the first major female presidential candidate in Clinton–helped widen the chasm between male and female vote preference within the same racial group.