The Quinnipiac University Poll has recently found that while Republican governors have been experiencing big gender gaps in their job approval ratings, Democratic governors and President Obama are seeing relatively small gender gaps. Why?
Public opinion polls have long shown that men are more likely than women to approve of the job Republican office holders are doing and conversely women are more likely than men to like the job Democrats do in office. Typically, the gap between the percentage of men and women approving of an elected official is relatively small (in single digits), and can usually be explained away by differences in party identification. Women are much more likely than men to consider themselves Democrats. For example, in Quinnipiac’s July national poll, 41 percent of women considered themselves Democrats compared to only 28 percent of men. Consequently, women are more supportive than men of Democratic officeholders.
While President Obama has a 7 point gender gap, with 50 percent of women approving of his job performance compared to 43 percent of men, this gap almost vanishes when we factor in party identification. For example, there is almost no difference between Democratic women and Democratic men – they both universally approve of the President. Similarly, there isn’t much of a difference between Republican men and Republican women – almost all of them disapprove of the President. There was a small, statistically insignificant difference in President Obama’s approval rating among Independent men and Independent women.
Like President Obama, the two Democratic governors that Quinnipiac regularly polls on – New York’s Andrew Cuomo and Connecticut’s Dannel Malloy also have small gender gaps. Malloy’s job approval gender gap is just 2 points, with 37 percent of men approving and 39 percent of women approving. Cuomo’s gender gap is also small; it’s just 5 points and actually goes in the opposite direction than what we would expect given historical patterns. Women are slightly less supportive of Cuomo, although both men (67 percent) and women (62 percent) overwhelmingly approve of the job he is doing.
Unlike the Democratic officeholders, all of the Republican governors have double digit gender gaps that can’t be explained simply by differences in party identification. The gender gap for Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett is 18 points (48 percent of men approve vs. 30 percent of women); for New Jersey governor Chris Christie it is 17 points (53 percent of men approve vs. 36 percent of women); for Florida governor Rick Scott it is 11 points (35 percent of men approve vs. 24 percent of women); for Ohio governor John Kasich the gender gap is 11 points (44 percent of men approve vs. 33 percent of women); and for Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell it is 11 points (61 percent of men approve vs. 50 percent of women).
One thing that all these Republicans have in common is their approach to budget deficits. They all have relied on spending cuts, rather than tax increases. Just as there is a big gender gap for their overall job approval ratings, there is also a big gender gap for the way they’ve handled their budgets. Women are much less likely than men to approve of the way these governors are handling their state’s budgets.
These Republican governors have either tepid or low overall job approval ratings, except for Governor McDonnell who is at 55 percent. They need to do better among women to lift their overall scores.
All of these governors have plenty of time to improve their standing among women. They aren’t up for reelection until 2013 or 2014. However, one might wonder whether there will be any spillover effect in the 2012 elections. Will women, upset over the budget cuts proposed by Republican governors, show up in unusually large numbers or vote in unusually large numbers for Democrats? Democrats are certainly hoping that will be the case.