The Gender Gap

From today’s NY Times, a timely article about Romney and the gender gap.  Keep an eye on this tonight during the debate.  Note the complaints by Democrats about polling methodology (ironic, given that two weeks ago the criticism came from Republicans).  Once you watch the debate, comment on whether Romney did anything to further close the gender gap.

October 16, 2012, 11:46 am

Debate Could Provide Romney Chance to Close Gender Gap


Mitt Romney’s second debate appearance Tuesday night will provide him another high-profile opportunity to offer an image of reasonableness and moderation that could be crucial in winning over key voting blocs, especially women, with whom President Obama has had long-standing leads.

The candidates must find ways to be both assertive and understanding during the 90-minute debate on Long Island. But Mr. Romney, in particular, has a chance to close the gender gap if he can dispel Mr. Obama’s criticism about the impact his policies would have on women.

Polling released Monday by Gallup and USA Today suggested that Mr. Obama’s double-digit edge among women has evaporated in the wake of the first debate with Mr. Romney. The survey found Mr. Romney, the Republican candidate, leading slightly among women in battleground states and tied elsewhere.

That survey result was strongly contested by Mr. Obama’s top advisers, who said the poll was flawed. And the Democratic advantage among women still persists in other polls, including surveys conducted by The New York Times in several battleground states last week.

But for Mr. Romney, the challenge remains: to use the debate to try to further erode the president’s usual advantage among women.

Top aides to Mr. Romney said there would be no specific effort to tailor his message to women during the town-hall-style debate. Rather, they said they hoped Mr. Romney could continue to present himself as the best alternative to the president for all of his constituencies, including women.

“Our internal polling shows strong movement toward Governor Romney over the past two weeks,” said Rich Beeson, the campaign’s political director, in a memo released to reporters Tuesday morning. “It also shows serious movement by independent voters, women, and those who were soft supporters of President Obama toward the Romney-Ryan ticket.”

The format of the debate could provide Mr. Romney the opportunity to make further inroads with women.

The questions from voters will give both candidates an opportunity to prove that they can identify with the plight of voters. If Mr. Romney can make that connection with a female questioner, it could help his cause.

There are risks, too. An awkward exchange during the debate could set back the Republican outreach to women just as the campaign is reaching its closing days. It could be hard to recover in the time left.

Advisers to Mr. Obama have been stressing Mr. Romney’s opposition to abortion and his position on contraception in the days since the first debate, hoping to energize women. Many women had said they were disappointed that Mr. Obama did not bring the topic up during the first exchange.

That will likely change tonight. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. made a point of raising the issue during his debate last week with Representative Paul D. Ryan, Mr. Romney’s running mate. Mr. Obama is likely to try to find a way to to do the same tonight.

Top strategists for Mr. Obama on Monday insisted that the Gallup poll was flawed and that the president retained a strong lead among female voters.

In a memorandum to reporters, Joel Benenson, the president’s lead pollster, said the poll’s findings regarding women underscored “deep flaws” in the way the survey identifies which voters are most likely to actually cast ballots in the November election.

Mr. Benenson noted that the poll showed Mr. Obama with a nine-point lead among all registered voters. That lead disappears when the poll is limited to likely voters, a result that Mr. Benenson says is evidence that Gallup is misidentifying who is likely to vote.

Other recent polls have shown little evidence of a shift among women toward the Republican ticket. A New York Times/CBS News/Quinnipiac University survey of Virginia last week showed Mr. Obama with a 14-point lead over Mr. Romney, essentially unchanged from before the first debate.

A similar poll in Wisconsin showed Mr. Obama with a 10-point lead. In national polls from ABC News and The Washington Post from before and after the first debate, there was no significant swing among female voters.

10 responses to “The Gender Gap”

  1. AkhilP7 says :

    When a question was given about inequality among workers, Obama responded first. He mentioned his working class background and talked about the difficulties his mother and grandmother faced. He also mentioned his approval of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 to show that he was still fighting for women’s rights. He clearly was trying to appeal more to the female audience this time around when compared to the last debate.

    Romney’s response was very effective. He talked about how he looked for women to apply for positions in his cabinet when he was elected governor and how he appealed to women’s groups. Also previously in the debate, Romney made small personal connections like when he asked the college student when the kid was graduating and asserting him that he would have a job.

    Coming out of that question, I think both candidates did exactly what they needed to do to reach out to the women in the country. However this is more important for Romney because his story was especially memorable since Romney previously hasn’t been too compelling in his stories. But the mention of his gubernatorial campaign will certain boost opinion of Romney in the voter’s eyes and may very well allow him to close the gender gap that costs him some crucial votes.

  2. Jonas1 says :

    Romney clearly tried to appeal to women to close the gender gap, but I don’t think his approach was very effective. Lost in an anectode about his own experience hiring women, he never actually addressed the question of income inequality between the sexes. Obama had a very clear response in which he described specificly policy, namely the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, while Romney did no such thing. Now, this isn’t so much of an issue, seeing as vagueness is apparently acceptable these days, but Romney made some missteps in his response that could put off female voters. There was the “binders” line, which I know many women found weird and slightly creepy, but also the bit about women needing to be home in time to cook dinner. I’m sure Romney wasn’t trying to be sexist, but the line conjures up images of a 1950s housewife and is bound to not sit well with some women.

  3. iqra07 says :

    It was smart of both Obama and Romney to address women, but, like Jonas, I think Romney was ineffective in his attempt to reach out to them.
    Of course, Obama mentioned the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which was actually the first bill he signed into law when he took office. He further connected to women by describing the difficulties that his mother and grandmother faced, ultimately making women’s problem his problem.

    Romney told a story about how he didn’t have any female applicants for positions in his state cabinet and his search for women to fill the job. This ultimately led him to his odd “binders full of women” line. The creepiness of it aside, this line made it quite difficult for Obama supporting women to like Romney. That there wasn’t a single woman in the entire state of Massachusetts who was qualified to take on a job for Romney is a preposterous explanation for his lack of female applicants, a statement that Romney himself supported. So what is the reason true reason for Romney’s predicament? I was left with the impression that many women’s dislike of Romney is so strong that the only way he can find them is by tracking them down.

  4. Lizzie1 says :

    I don’t think Romney’s approach to the “Women’s Issues” questions were effective. It seemed like he prepared for them, but the answers just came off the wrong way. As mentioned above, he told a story about making an effort to hire women, which was fine; but then he said that he had to lessen their hours so they could get home, which makes him seem like him seem like he does not respect women as more than mothers and wives. In another question about gun control, Romney mentioned the importance of a two-parent family in making sure the children don’t misuse firearms, and although that wasn’t specifically a “Women’s Issues” question, his answer sparked a lot of discussion because it made him seem backwards in his ways. I do think that Romney had all the right intentions, but his execution did not close the gender gap.

  5. sophiae7 says :

    Romney’s efforts to attract female voters failed, miserably. I knew it was going badly when he said he had a “binder full of women” who worked for him while he was Governor of Massachusetts. When Romney makes statements like these, it comes across as if he is trying to prove that he treats women fairly. A possible future president shouldn’t have to prove that he treats women fairly and the fact that Romney feels the need to do so is the reason that there is a gender gap in this campaign. Obama was able to use his record to reaffirm his commitment to women’s rights by mentioning the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

    Another major downfall regarding women’s rights is the fact that Romney chose Paul Ryan as his running mate. Considering that Ryan has been so blatant about his views towards abortion and fair pay, it is very hard for the Romney team to persuade any independents to side with the Romney/Ryan ticket on women’s issues.

    • Paul1 says :

      As the election results show, Romney’s efforts both in this debate, and in the late stages of election were ineffective in attracting female voters. Despite the possibilities available to him during this second debate to increase his appeal, he only “closed” the Gender Gap by 1%, with Obama winning 55% to 44% according to the New York Times exit polls.

  6. Nick4 says :

    In my opinion, Romney never had a shot eliminating the Gender Gap. The issues regarding women were too current to ignore, and Romney was unable to defend his stances without coming off as detached. Obviously he had the “binders full of women” comment, but his and Paul Ryan’s lack of sincerity throughout the whole race made it nearly impossible for people, women especially, to trust him. At a private fundraiser in Florida in October, Ryan joked about the War on Women, saying “Now it’s a war on women; tomorrow it’s going to be a war on left-handed Irishmen or something like that.” Ignorant comments like these, while lighthearted at the time, can cause a longterm effect on voters, especially when they are made so close to election day.

    One thing that Romney successfully did in this debate was continue to not get the vote of the 47% who supposedly will support Obama no matter what. According to a CNN poll, Obama won the debate 47% to 39%. This debate proved that while Romney may have done better than Obama in the first debate on domestic policy, Obama has always had a leg up on Romney on social issues, and this probably contributed to Obama’s victory.

  7. sarahb7 says :

    I think that although this article is discussing the gender gap, the underlying theme is the unreliability of polls. If the Washington Post, Gallup, USA Today and New York Times, all major, reputable sources, come out with such wildly varying results following the first and second presidential debates, then clearly there is a flaw in the polling system. And if both Democrats and Republicans are criticizing the polls and saying they’re misleading then the issue doesn’t have to do with partisan bias, but likely the method of polling. It would be beneficial to both parties and candidates as well as voters to have an accurate and dependable way of viewing overall population as well as specific demographic percentage breakdowns.

  8. Kalyn7 says :

    I agree with Nick, I don’t think there was ever a chance at Romney closing the gender gap. Romney flip-flopped so often on women’s health and I think that most women are just not willing to gamble with their rights. Not to mention his apparent disdain for Planned Parenthood, which, while it does perform abortions, also performs PAP smears, prenatal care, and pregnancy tests. Millions of women take advantage of their services each year, and do not appreciate Romney’s plans to cut its funding.

    During the debate, Romney not only insulted the majority of the voting population with his infamous ‘binders’ comment, he insulted single mothers. He also suggested that women should be able to leave work early to cook for their families, and most women (including myself) find that just ignorant and offensive. This is the 21st century. Not the fifties.

    Also, Ann Romney isn’t exactly the picture of the 21st century woman, the driven, powerful, working mother. While she raised five kids, she never had any work experience (except being a homemaker). And sponsoring Rafalca. She’s not exactly inspiring to the modern woman.

    The bottom line is, Romney didn’t have a chance with women. Sorry, Mitt.

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