The Myth of the Women’s Vote

WASHINGTON, DC – Among the clichés that deserve to be thrown out after the recent presidential election in the United States is the idea of a “women’s vote.”

It may seem surprising that only 54% of the female electorate voted for Hillary Clinton, the first woman nominated for president by a major party. But while gender is a strong marker for how Americans think about certain issues, it is not the best predictor of how they will vote. It turns out that female candidates do not face a single gender gap, but rather multiple gender gaps.

To be sure, a superficial look at past election results reveals an enormous and persistent difference between men and women voters overall. According to Pew Research, the last presidential election in which men and women voted the same was the 1976 contest between Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford. In this year’s election, women favored Clinton by 12 percentage points, and men favored Trump by the same margin. Men favored George W. Bush by 11 points in 2000, and women favored Obama by 13 points and 11 points in 2008 and 2012, respectively; but until now we have never seen double-digit gaps in both directions simultaneously.

But this still does not mean that the gender gap tells us much as a first-order factor, especially if we consider other gaps among demographic groups. If we sort by race or ethnicity, we find that white Americans favored Trump by 21 points, while Hispanics and African-Americans favored Clinton by 36 points and 80 points, respectively.