Jewish World Review Nov. 7, 2000 / 9 Mar-Cheshvan 5761
The common definition for the gender-gap is the extent to which women vote more Democratic than men particularly when it comes to their presidential picks. As of this writing, the Gallup polling organization shows Al Gore with a 7 point lead over Bush among women. (Though other polls show it closer.)
Of course, that's dwarfed by the gender-gap Al Gore has with men, or the fact that Bush is some 17 points ahead of Gore on that score. That tends to get far less attention partly because we're programmed to wring our hands more over whatever the gals are up to, partly because women tend to vote in slightly higher numbers than men, and partly because when it comes to Presidential polititcs, women have been a more malleable group. Whereas men consistently trend more Republican than Democratic, women twice voted in the majority for Ronald Reagan and then twice voted more for Bill Clinton than his Republican opponents.
So, what do women want? To find the answers, one has to look more closely at what kind of women vote for each candidate. Based on past elections, it's easy to predict that exit polls on Tuesday will show that married women pretty evenly split their votes between the two Presidential candidates or voted in a slight majority for Bush, while single women overwhelmingly preferred Gore.
After all, exit polls showed that in 1992 married women voted in almost equal numbers for George Bush and Bill Clinton. But when it came to single women, 53% voted for Clinton while only 31% voted for Bush. In 1996, married women came close to splitting their votes for the candidates, but among their single sisters an overwhelming 62% voted for Clinton and only 28% for Bob Dole.
So, this isn't a gender-gap as much as a "marriage-gap." (Men have a "marriage-gap" too, but it's much narrower.) Perhaps that's why the issues that conventional wisdom and a gullible press say should motivate women voters, actually don't. Abortion is a non-starter. Women are evenly divided between the candidates in the polling on this issue, and in fact among the small percentage of women who say abortion is one of their very top issues, the pro-life position gets a slight majority. The "equal-pay" issue is a yawner for most women too. By and large, they are getting equal-pay for equal-work and they know it.
The truth is, explains political analyst and National Review Washington editor Kate O'Beirne, "women are not looking up at the 'glass-ceiling' nearly as much as they are looking down at the safety net." Polls consistently show that women are more concerned than men about education, government spending on programs for the poor and needy, and issues like social security and medicare. While a recent poll showed that 58 percent of all Americans said they would prefer "smaller government and fewer services to bigger government with more services" fully 70 percent of men agreed with that analysis -- while only 48 percent of women did.
Does all this mean that women are just more "compassionate" than men? No, only that they sense they are more vulnerable. And therein may lie the answer for the marriage-gap. Those women who are not married, or who are but have come to see marriage as the unreliable institution it often is, may be more likely to feel exposed, at-risk, and in need of a long-term provider. Enter Uncle Sam as the "man" in their lives - the ultimate Alpha Male. A role the government has been insidiously seeking for decades. So, it's little wonder that today Al Gore's message of "I will make sure government takes care of you and your kids" is so much more successful with women than with men.
Alas, it appears today that that's what too many women have come to
10/24/00: Spare the rod ...