Thursday, December 20, 2007

Clinton and the Battle of the Sexes

Does Senator Hillary Clinton’s fight for the White House reflect a nationwide Battle of the Sexes?

This article in the Washington Post today claims just that.

The author’s argument is two-fold.

Firstly, Lois Romano points to the unmistakable gender gap in voting preferences.

The New York Daily News national poll shows that in a head-to-head match-up with Hillary Clinton, she would have the support of 45 percent of women voters, compared to 30 percent for Giuliani. Given that more women head to the polls than men (In the 2004 presidential election, 67.3 million women voted compared with 58.5 million men) this voting gender gap may help Clinton outpace her rivals.

In Iowa, Clinton's support among male Democratic caucus-goers lags behind Barack Obama, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. While support for Clinton and Obama is fairly evenly split among women voters (36 and 32 percent respectively), a much larger gender gap emerges when considering men. Obama successfully claims the support of 33 percent of Iowan men surveyed compared to the measly 21 percent commanded by Clinton.

The gender gap in voting is perhaps most evident when considering which of the presidential candidates people want to prevent from becoming President. Senator Clinton was the overwhelmingly popular “anti-pick” with as many as 40 percent of American voters saying they would vote to keep her out of the White House. Clinton had a clear lead in this poll! The total for rival candidate Rudy Guiliani who came in at second place was only 17 percent, less than half of Clinton’s score.

The new Fox 5-The Washington Times-Rasmussen Reports survey shows that while Clinton performed poorly in many demographics, younger male voters dislike her the most. A whopping 53 percent of male voters younger than 40 said they would use their vote to keep Clinton from winning the presidency. The figure drops to just 39 percent amongst young women voters, indicating a stark gender gap.

Lois Romano’s claim in the Washington Post goes beyond this gendered difference in voting preferences though. He argues that men tend to dislike Hillary more and “the stated reasons for their aversion to Clinton seem more complicated and …far more visceral than substantive”.

They just don't like her, some say. They don't know what she stands for. They believe her word is no good, that she doesn't believe that she can be held accountable. They see her as intellectual snob who lets you know she's smarter. They say she sounds like everybody's ex-wife. They can't tell if she's the loyal, traditional wife who stayed with her husband for love after his humiliating extramarital affair -- or a canny politician who stayed because it was politically expedient.

The second argument Romano makes is that male skepticism about Clinton based on such flimsy attributes can plausibly be attributed to sexism.

It may very well be true that American men aren’t ready for a female president but I don’t think there is any evidence about that just yet. After all, the New York Daily News national poll of women revealed that forty percent of respondents said they think Clinton stayed with her husband, then-President Bill Clinton, after his affair with Monica Lewinsky for political advantage.

The most recent Iowa poll shows that Obama’s comparative advantage against Clinton lies in his “honesty and trustworthiness” on which score he leads the New York Senator 34-18 percent.

The results of these two polls indicate that men and women share the so-called ‘visceral’ reasons for disliking Clinton. While the gender gap of voting preferences is hard, cold fact, it can’t automatically and convincingly be attributed to the sexism of American men.


Terri said...

(and a far better post than my own by the way.) Nice blog!

JAGS said...

Thanks for the comment and keep visiting the blog :)

twelveinchteesquare said...

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