First things first: The theme song of the week is Mannix by Lalo Schifrin from the television show Mannix.
Poll of the week: A new Quinnipiac University poll finds that among women Democrats are leading on the generic congressional ballot by a 58% to 33%, a 25-point margin. Republicans, though, lead among men 50% to 42%, an 8-point margin.
That large gap between how women and men say they will vote in the midterm election is consistent with an average of live interview polls taken since June. The gender difference in the average is 26 points.
What’s the big idea: President Donald Trump has a history of making vulgar remarks about women (such as in the infamous Access Hollywood tape). On Thursday, he poked fun at the #MeToo movement. Comments like these are why it’s not too surprising that the 2016 presidential election featured the largest gender gap on record.
The question for the midterm elections is whether there will also be a large difference between female and male voting patterns without Trump or Hillary Clinton (the first woman major party nominee) on the ballot.
The polling suggests that there will be.
If the average of polling since June holds through November, 2018 will have the largest gender gap on record for a midterm election since at 1958 (when we first have polling available).
Still, it’s unclear how much of the 2018 gender gap is because of Trump compared to an existing trend towards diverging women and men voting patterns. Before this year, no midterm election had had a wider gender gap than 20 points in American National Election Studies (ANES) polling, exit polls or an average of the two when both are available. That record, though, was set in 2014.
Like many other subjects in American politics, Trump may just be exacerbating trends in the electorate that were in motion before him.
Trump may recognize that a gender gap is no guarantee of electoral success for Democrats. If that were the case, then Democrats would have easily won in 2014 and 2016.
A key difference between 2014 and 2018 is the percentage of women who are voting for Democrats compared to Republicans.
In the average poll since June, Democrats are leading among women by an average 20-percentage point margin compared to trailing among men by 6 points. If this holds, this would be the largest margin that Democrats would win women by in a midterm election since at least 1958. [Note: ANES polling is not made to match the actual result like the exit poll is. I have adjusted it (and therefore the gender crosstab) so that the overall ANES congressional poll result matches the final outcome in each year.)
The two best years for Democrats before this year were the 1974 and 1982 midterms when Democrats won among women by about 14 and 17 points respectively. House Democrats are also doing considerably better than in 2014 when they won among women by 4 points, and Democrats this year are doing better than Clinton did in 2016 when she won women by 13 points.
Of course, it could be argued that some of Trump’s actions that alienate women voters could attract more men voters. Republicans are still leading with men in the polling, even if that lead is down from 2016. That is, it’s unclear that Republicans doing particularly poorly among women is necessarily hurting them among the larger electorate because the effect may be canceled out by doing better with men than otherwise might be expected.
One clear advantage of doing better among women voters though is that they almost always represent a larger percentage of the electorate than men do. Historically that hasn’t made much of a difference because the gender gap hasn’t been as large as it is today. With a gender gap of 26 points, however, it could matter.
Moreover, it seems that the turnout advantage women enjoy over men may be higher this year than in years past. In the latest CNN poll, for example, 48% of women say they are extremely or very enthusiastic to vote this year compared to 40% of men. We also know that in the Virginia gubernatorial election last year that Democratic women had the highest increase in turnout among any group.
Indeed, turnout may be the ultimate question in this midterm. Given that the generic congressional ballot is right near the tipping point for when Democrats versus Republicans would win control of the House, it could be what makes the difference.
If women do, in fact, turn out in greater numbers than usual, it could tip the balance of power in the Democrats favor.
If men, in the end, do turn out at rates greater than the CNN poll suggests at this time, it could save the Republican majority.