The gender gap–the difference between the voting patterns of men and women–proved crucial 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.
“Women’s votes are the reason Vice President Gore won the popular vote. If only women had voted, Gore would have had a landslide victory,” 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 in which Gore won the electoral votes, he won only because of the gender gap and the votes of women. In these states, 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 only Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York and the District of Columbia, where Gore also enjoyed large gender gaps, did the majority of both women and men vote for Gore.
The gender gap also was responsible for Democratic Congressional victories. All 5 of the U.S. Senate races in which Democrats picked up seats were a the result of women’s votes. Stabenow (D-MI) won with a 10-point gender gap, Bill Nelson (D-FL) with an 11-point gender gap, Carper (D-DE) with a 12-point gender gap, Dayton (D-MN) with a 9-point gender gap, and Carnahan (D-MO) with a 6-point gender gap. In all of these races, women’s votes were the deciding factor. Gender gaps were also decisive in the election of newly elected Senators John Corzine (13-point gender gap)_and Hillary Clinton )11-point gender gap).
Women voters also disproportionately supported Democratic House candidates, with 53% of women and only 44% of men voting Democratic. The impact of the gender gap on election outcomes is especially significant women are registered to vote and turnout to vote in greater numbers than men. For example, seven million more women than men voted in 1996. The gender gap is fueled by issues such as gun control, abortion rights, women’s rights, and human services.###