The gender gap – the difference between the voting patterns of men and women – proved decisive in presidential, Congressional, and statewide races. Overall, Gore enjoyed a 12-point gender gap in the nationwide Voter News Service exit polling, with 54% of women voting for Gore but only 42% of men.
Gore would not have won the electoral votes in 16 of the 20 states in which he was victorious without the gender gap. “Women’s votes are the reason Vice President Gore is within striking distance of winning the presidency. If only men had voted, Bush would have won the race easily,” said Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal, the first political analyst to identify the gender gap as a political phenomenon in 1980. In 16 of the states that Gore won, he had the support of the majority of women voters, but did not have majority support among men. The Florida exit poll also reveals an 11-point gender gap that could provide the margin of victory for Gore. The largest gender gap was in the Delaware race in which Gore won 64% of women’s votes, compared with 44% of men’s. In Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York and the District of Columbia, the majority of both women and men voted for Gore. Click here for state-by-state gender gaps in votes for president.
The gender gap also was responsible for Congressional victories. All 5 of the U.S. Senate races in which Democrats picked up seats were the result of women’s votes. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) won with a 10-point gender gap, Bill Nelson (D-FL) with an 11-point gender gap, Thomas Carper (D-DE) with a 12-point gender gap, Mark Dayton (D-MN) with a 9-point gender gap, and Mel Carnahan (D-MO) with a 6-point gender gap. In all of these races, the surplus of women’s votes made up for less than a majority of men’s votes.
Newly elected Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and John Corzine (D-NJ) had large gender gaps of 11-points and 13-points respectively, and also won the majority of men’s votes.
Women voters also disproportionately supported Democratic House candidates, with 53% of women and only 44% of men voting Democratic. The gender gap is fueled by issues such as abortion rights, gun control, military spending, women’s rights, and human services.