The Gender Gap Plays a Critical Role as the Real Election Starts

Traditionally, political polling in support of candidates becomes “real” after the summer, as voters begin to pay more attention to what the candidates are doing, saying and ignoring.

This year, however, is different, since most voters have already made up their minds. Vice President Biden is currently the frontrunner—owing his lead to women.

In early September, a Quinnipiac poll of likely voters found Biden winning over Trump by 10 percent overall—52 percent for Biden; 42 percent for Trump. A significant majority of women (56 percent) said they would vote for Biden compared to 48 percent of men—a gender gap of 8 points. 

By the end of the month, a Monmouth poll found Biden maintaining that 10 percent lead. Again, we find women playing a critical role in Biden’s lead: A majority of women (57 percent) said they would vote for Biden compared to 41 percent of men—a staggering gender gap of 16 points.

Note that women’s support for Biden remains consistently high, generally ranging from 56 percent to 58 percent. (The 53 percent on Sept. 24 appears to be an outlier.)

Men’s support for Biden, however, has been on a decline, ranging from 48 percent in early September to 41 percent in late September.

September Polling Shows Significant Gender Gap

September national polls continue to show a significant gender gap, the difference between the percentage of women and men responding to a variation of the question: If the election for President were today, would you vote for Donald Trump, the Republican, or Joe Biden, the Democrat?  

*Likely voters
**Registered voters

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How Did the Debates Affect Voter Sentiment?

(Creative Commons)

Polls taken immediately following the September 29 presidential debates—including one by CNN of 568 people who watched the debate—show a similar pattern.

A majority of women felt Biden did a better job in the debates, by 66 percent to 55 percent of men—an 11-point gender gap. 

When asked if the debate affected their vote, more women said they were more likely to vote for Biden by 10 points (37 percent of women vs. 27 percent of men).

Conversely, an average 11 percent of voters were more likely to vote for Trump (10 percent of women and 12 percent of men), and 57 percent of voters who watched the debates said the debates had no effect.

[Note: These national polls have a +/- margin of error range of 2 percent.]

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About and

Ethel Klein is an author, pollster and campaign strategist. Formerly, she was a professor of political science at Harvard University and Columbia University. Klein is the founder of EDK Associates, a public opinion research firm.
Kathy Bonk is a communications expert who has been analyzing and writing about the gender gap since 1982. She is the co-author of the Jossey Bass book, Strategic Communications for Nonprofits.