January 18, 2008

Mind the Gender Gap

by Andrew Kohut, President, Pew Research Center
Special to the New York Times

A lot of attention has been paid to the women’s vote in the first two Democratic nominating contests. In the Iowa caucuses, Barack Obama won a narrow victory over Hillary Clinton among female voters. But in New Hampshire women rallied to the former first lady giving her a huge 46 percent to 34 percent margin, which was the deciding factor in her comeback win.

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In contrast, the voting preferences of men have not drawn as much attention, perhaps because men voted the same way in both states: a strong plurality of men backed Obama. According to the Edison/Mitofsky entrance polls in Iowa, 35 percent of male caucus-goers supported Senator Obama, compared with 23 percent who backed Senator Clinton. In the New Hampshire primary, Senator Obama carried the male vote by a similarly large 40 percent to 29 percent margin, despite his narrow defeat there.

What’s going on here? Does Senator Clinton have a problem with male voters or does Senator Obama simply appeal more to men? A look at the exit polls and latest national polls suggests that the answer is a little bit of both, but the anti-Clinton sentiment is a somewhat larger factor among men. In particular, Hillary Clinton seems to turn off younger and moderate to conservative male Democrats. As many as one-in-five of them say there is no way they will support the former first lady for the nomination.

Read the full commentary at nytimes.com.