Will women voters decide the 2020 election?

Will women voters decide the 2020 election?
Source: WSJ

In American politics, men have always occupied most of the seats of power. In addition to the United States never having had a female president, the makeup of both the House of Representatives and the Senate has remained slanted towards men. Even in the current 116th Congress, which made history in 2018 by featuring the most female senators ever, only 26 of the 100 seats in the Senate belonged to women.

The lack of female representation in national politics is particularly interesting when considering that women make up more than 50% of the population and consistently vote in higher numbers than men.

Though women overwhelmingly supported former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump prevailed.

In 2020, Trump is polling even worse with women than he did in 2016, which raises the question: Will Trump’s deficit with female voters end up deciding the election?

Women voters for Clinton

In the immediate decades following women’s enfranchisement in 1920, women voters tended to align with conservative causes. However, over the course of the 20th century, there was a substantial shift and, for decades now, women voters as a whole have consistently swung further left than men. Women as a group by and large favor the Democratic Party.

This partisan divide between men and women in America was apparent in the 2016 US election when Hillary Clinton, a Democrat and the first female US presidential candidate on a major party’s ticket, had the largest gender gap among voters in history. 13% more women voted for Clinton than did men.

Still, that gender gap was not as wide as predicted, nor was it entirely unprecedented. In 2000, former Vice President Al Gore had a 11% gender gap in his voters.

If Clinton underperformed with women, it was due to the well-documented racial gap between voters. Overall, women voted for Clinton over Trump, 54% to 42%, but 53% of white women voted for Trump, including an overwhelming 62% of those who hadn’t graduated from college.

Even when Clinton was positioned to become the first female US president in history, it was not enough of a motivation to unify female voters.

Women for Biden

That suggests that in a normal year fellow Democrat Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, would face an even greater uphill battle. Especially because, as the traditional political wisdom goes, the incumbent president usually wins.

But this is far from a normal year and Trump’s pre-existing unpopularity with female voters, combined with his much-derided response to the COVID-19 pandemic, has given Biden a 20 point advantage with female voters in a Marquette University Law School poll conducted in early May. That point spread reflects even greater support from women than Clinton had.

In the primary season, Biden’s strong support from women gave him a boost over the other candidates. That support grew even stronger after most of the other candidates had dropped out and the former vice president’s last remaining opponent was Senator Bernie Sanders.

Even in Michigan, where Sanders beat Clinton in 2016, Biden trounced Sanders with women 58% to 35% in the March 10 primary.

That was before Biden’s former congressional aide, Tara Reade, publicly accused Biden of sexual assault. Nonetheless, Biden continued to receive support from high-profile female Democrats, including Clinton and Stacey Abrams. In addition to Biden saying that he would select a woman to run as his vice president, a series of critical reports on Reade seems to have inoculated Biden against the accusations.

Still, it’s possible that Biden’s strong female support says more about Trump than it does about him.

Trump is underwater with female voters

Since his first campaign, Trump has struggled to win support from women. Like Biden with Reade, Trump is followed by accusations of sexual impropriety – approximately 25 of them. Trump has also been dogged by accusations of misogyny and has staked out unpopular positions on a number of issues that are important to women.

Since the Marquette poll, Trump’s numbers have only continued to show that he is poorly positioned to win reelection.

A Fox News poll released on June 3, with polling from May 30 to June 2, shows just how dire Trump’s numbers are with women in the state of Wisconsin, an important swing state that is often considered a bellwether for the election. Trump won Wisconsin in an upset in 2016 and it is a state that is viewed as especially important in the coming election as well.

Among all women, Biden beats Trump 55% to 35%. In a major shift from 2016, the numbers for white women are 54% for Biden, 37% for Trump. Suburban women favor Biden to Trump 64% to 29%.

Rasmussen has been called Trump’s “favorite pollster” because it has been one of the few polls that the president has been able to cite for favorable polling numbers. But since mid-May, Trump’s approval rating has been in the low 30s while his disapproval has been in the mid-40s.

However, news reports in 2016 said he had a “woman problem” and, despite being consistently down in the polling, he still won. A Fox News poll from June 2016 had Clinton beating Trump with women 51% to 32%.

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