Polls throughout the 2012 campaign have consistently found that women support Obama by a wide margin, prompting speculation that the gender gap could prove decisive to the election outcome. A YouGov poll of 1000 Americans this week finds that Obama leads Romney (51% to 41%) among women, whereas the candidates are tied at 43% among men—an 8 percentage point gender gap for Obama. Although it remains to be seen how the Election Day gender gap will stack up to previous elections, it does seem clear that this gap does not simply reflect the fact that women are more likely to identify as Democrats. Among Independents, Obama garners the support of 42% of women but only 34% of men. In contrast, Romney gets the support of 39% of Independent women and 35% of independent men. The gender gap also seems to at least partly reflect an aversion to the GOP rather than an attraction to the Democratic Party. Female Obama supporters are more likely than male Obama supporters to say they are voting “against” Romney rather than “for” Obama (22% vs. 11%)
The unanswered question is exactly why Romney is struggling with female voters. Certainly, reproductive issues have emerged as a campaign issue following Rep. Todd Akin's controversial remarks on rape. The YouGov poll finds that 72% of women say that abortion is an “extremely” or “very” important issue compared to 52% of men. But there is also a gender gap on other campaign issues as well. A recent NPR blog concludes that the gender gap reflects the more liberal views of women on social welfare issues – the government’s safety net. This might explain the differences found in the reactions of men and women to Romney’s remarks that he doesn’t worry about the “47 percent” of Americans dependent on government entitlements. Of the YouGov respondents who said they had heard about the remarks, women were more likely than men to say the comments were a “mistake” (46% v. 34%) and to say they “made me more likely to vote against him” (21% v. 15%). With 5 weeks left until Election Day, there is still time for other issues to come to the forefront of the campaign, but it seems Romney has an uphill climb to win over female voters.