The Corner

Politics & Policy

The Conventional, Persistent Misunderstanding of the Gender Gap

After pretty much any election Republicans have lost over the last generation — and sometimes even after elections they have won — we hear that the party has to address its huge problem with women. Senator Lindsey Graham at least narrowed down the demographic challenge, albeit with some rhetorical infelicity: “We’ve got to address the suburban-woman problem, because it’s real.”

The exit polls, which show how differently men and women voted, fuel these arguments after every election. What the House exit polls from the last two elections tell us is that Republican candidates for the House won the votes of 55 percent of men and 44 percent of women in 2016, and 51 percent of men and 40 percent of women in 2018. It seems to me that the natural interpretation of those numbers is: Republicans usually do somewhat worse among women than among men, and in this election their support fell about the same amount in both groups.

The exits don’t give us a breakdown for suburban women, but they do let us look at college-educated white women and men. The women voted 49 percent for Republicans in 2016 and 39 percent in 2018. The men voted 60 percent for Republicans in 2016 and 51 percent in 2018. Republicans had a significant drop-off in support that was concentrated among college graduates — but was not especially concentrated among women.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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