Gender Gap Now a “Gulf” on Coronavirus, Trump and Economy

See previous Ms. reporting on the 2020 gender gap.

As the country enters its third month of social distancing and stay-at-home orders, multiple polls show a significant gender gap in attitudes about Trump’s handling of the federal response to the coronavirus, the economic outlook, the direction for the country and plans for reopening.

Attitudes on Federal Response

In a May 4 Civiqs poll of 32,443 respondents, 63 percent of women and 55 percent of men say they are not very satisfied or not satisfied at all with the federal government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak—an eight-point gender gap.

A 13-point gender gap emerges when it comes to Trump’s handling of his job as president, with a majority of women (61 percent) disapproving, compared to only 48 percent of men.

Polling Reveals Significant Gender Gap in Attitudes on Trump Coronavirus Response
A majority of women (61 percent) disapprove of Trump’s handling of his job as president. (Gage Skidmore)

An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released last week found an even larger gender gap (16 points), with 63 percent of women and 47 percent of men expressing disapproval on how Trump is handling the coronavirus pandemic.

Polling Reveals Significant Gender Gap in Attitudes on Trump Coronavirus Response
Sixty-three percent of women disapprove of how Trump is handling the outbreak, compared to 47 percent of men. (Alyson Hurt / NPR)

Attitudes about the president’s response to the public health crisis appears to be impacting views toward the Republican party, with 61 percent of women holding an unfavorable view of the GOP—eight more points than the 53 percent of men who hold similar views. In contrast, 59 percent of men hold an unfavorable view of the Democratic party, compared to 43 percent of women.

Both women and men score state and local officials much higher: 67 percent of women and 69 percent of men rate their state and local officials as doing a good job responding to the pandemic, according to a CBS/YouGov poll from late April.

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Economic Reality

As millions—almost 19 percent of the U.S. labor force—have lost their jobs and filed for unemployment, reports show the U.S. economy contracted 4.8 percent in the first three months of 2020—the steepest drop since the 2008 recession. And JPMorgan Chase predicts the economy will continue to nose dive, contracting 40 percent in the second quarter, which runs from April through June.

Polling Reveals Significant Gender Gap in Attitudes on Trump Coronavirus Response

So it’s no surprise that both women and men rate the condition of the national economy as bad—75 percent and 71 percent, respectively, according to the Civiqs poll.

But a gender gap emerges again when asked about where the country is headed, with 62 percent of women saying the U.S. is headed in the wrong direction, versus 51 percent of men, an 11-point difference.

Skepticism Regarding Reopen Plans

When is the right time to open the economy? Not for a while, says a wide majority of Americans.

Women and men—77 percent and 75 percent, respectively—both agree that the stay-at-home orders are working, the CBS/YouGov poll shows.

And while polling shows most in the U.S. are putting health concerns over economic concerns, it also shows that women, more so than men, are more cautious about lifting stay-at-home orders—as well as more concerned about the health and safety of others.

The CBS/YouGov poll revealed an 11-point gender gap when respondents were asked their top priority for the country: 75 percent of women—compared to 66 percent of men—think the U.S. should be trying to slow the spread of coronavirus by keeping people home and social distancing, even if the economy is hurt in the short term.

In the same poll, 69 percent of women feel not very or not at all comfortable going out to public places and being around crowds if all stay-at-home restrictions were lifted—nine points higher than the 60 percent of men who say the same.

Washington Post-University of Maryland poll revealed a remarkable gender gap on the question of whether or not to reopen eight particular types of businesses: gun stores, dine-in restaurants, nail salons, barber shops and nail salons, retail stores, gyms, golf courses and movie theaters.

The Washington Post reports:

The gender gap is especially notable on the reopening of most of the businesses listed, with men more supportive than women in most cases. Fifty-six percent of men oppose allowing gun shops to open, a view held by 82 percent of women. For restaurants and nail salons, only about a fifth of women say they should be open, compared with about one-third of men. About a quarter of women say retail shops, barber shops and hair salons should be opened, compared with 4 in 10 men.

Women are less likely to attribute political motive to state and local officials ordering extensions of stay at home orders: 78 percent of women, as opposed to 65 percent of men, believe the officials who support longer times for stay at home orders are doing so mostly because they feel they are doing what’s best for their community, rather than being motivated by political advantage (a gender gap of 13 points).

Similarly, women generally take a stronger stand against the anti-lockdown protesters67 percent oppose these groups, compared to 56 percent of men—an 11-point gender gap.

Polling Reveals Significant Gender Gap in Attitudes on Trump Coronavirus Response
These protests—like the one pictured above in St. Paul, Minnesota—have not come about organically, but are rather carefully organized by local and national conservative organizations, many with connections to the Trump administration. (Lorie Shaull)

The Plan Moving Forward

So what will it take to reopen the country? When it comes to re-opening, women are more cautious: 52 percent of women (versus 43 percent of men) reported that they would not return to public places until they were confident the outbreak was over, the CBS/YouGov poll shows—a gender gap of nine points.

How could we be sure the outbreak is over? Experts believe the only way is widespread testing. And 62 percent of women agree—12 more percentage points than the 50 percent of men who say the same.

Without further testing, 89 percent of women and 81 percent of men think it’s a bad idea to send students back to school—high numbers for both, but an eight-point gender gap nonetheless, according to the NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

And an even larger gap appears on the subject of sending workers back to their jobs without adequate testing—72 percent of women think it is a bad idea, compared to 58 percent of men (a difference of 14 percentage points).

The persistently high gender gaps will likely impact voters’ attitudes as we enter the final countdown to the elections.

The coronavirus pandemic and the response by federal, state and local authorities is fast-movingDuring this time, Ms. is keeping a focus on aspects of the crisis—especially as it impacts women and their families—often not reported by mainstream media. If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting our independent reporting and truth-telling for as little as $5 per month.


Roxy Szal is the managing digital editor at Ms. and a producer on the Ms. podcast On the Issues With Michele Goodwin. She is also a mentor editor for The OpEd Project. Before becoming a journalist, she was a Texas public school English teacher. She is based in Austin, Texas. Find her on Twitter @roxyszal.