Friday, October 19, 2012

Mind the (Gender) Gap

This week, as the second presidential debate unfolded, as Republican standard bearer Mitt Romney sought to close the lead of President Barrack Obama among women, an unfortunate choice of words used in relating a story about his search for women to fill his cabinet as governor of Massachusetts set off an internet frenzy around the phrase "binders full of women".

Despite that, it appears Mr Romney has been able to narrow the gap with women in the key battleground states that will decide the election, although nationally, the gap remains sizeable. Around 1980 was when the women's vote swung in favour of the Democrat Party, and vice versa for men according to Ronald Ingleheart and Pippa Norris. They pointed out that
The emergence of the modern gender gap in America is due to the way that women moved towards the Democrats since 1980 while men moved towards the Republicans on a stable, long-term and consistent basis, thereby reversing the pattern of voting and partisanship common in the 1950s. 
They theorised that as women grew more educated, career-oriented and independent, they began to abandon their conservative leanings in favour of a more progressive message from the liberally-minded Democrats. In  every US presidential race since 1988, every single Democratic candidate has been supported by a majority of women voters up until Barrack Obama's election in 2008.

Meanwhile in the eight presidential elections since and including 1980, the Democrats have only twice secured a majority of male voters--in the 1992 and 2008 elections when the US economy was in bad shape.

Using the World Values Surveys, Ingleheart and Norris show how that the women's vote has consistently shifted more and more towards the more progressive parties in most advanced countries, some post-communist countries and a few developing nations.

By 1995, a solid pattern had emerged. The key to George W. Bush's victories in 2000 and 2004 was in narrowing this gender gap, which Romney is emulating.

Meanwhile in Australia, PM Julia Gillard has changed the definition of misogyny by branding the leader of the opposition as such in parliament.

Her 15-minute speech which went viral worldwide helped to convince the Macquarie and Merriam-Webster dictionaries to adopt her usage of the word and define misogyny as "an intense prejudice against women" instead of merely "hatred towards women".

As the head of a Labor government, Ms Gillard has enjoyed a substantial advantage among women voters as the preferred prime minister of Australia, while here rival, Mr Abbott has enjoyed a similar advantage among men.

It was at the end of the 1990s that Australian voting patterns followed America in developing this gender gap, based on the analysis of Ingleheart and Norris back in 1999. This seems to have continued.

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