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Women Are Not a Unified Voting Bloc

Wed, 11/14/2012 - 20:57 By Dante Chinni, Jefferson Insitute

Of all the big winners on Election Day, one of the biggest may have been a concept: the gender gap in American politics.

From President Barack Obama's 11-point edge with women over Mitt Romney in exit polls to Republicans losing two senate seats over troubling statements about rape, 2012 seemed to further the idea that gender is the leading definer of Democratic voters: double x marks the spot.

But lumping more than 50 percent of the population into a group and talking about it as a single unit can oversimplify things a lot. Go deeper into the 2012 exit poll numbers to look at the women's vote and picture begins to change.

To be clear, the gender gap in America is not a myth—the numbers show it's real—but it's also very complicated. It can grow or shrink depending on a host of factors: race, age, marital status, even geography.

Let's start with one of the biggest story lines of 2012: that the gender gap was an epic problem for Romney and the GOP in general. It started when the Republican primaries featured conversations about the morality of birth control, which ended up inspiring a tidal wave of women to push Obama over the top.

When everything was tallied from 2012 this turned out not to be true. This year's 11-point margin was big, but it wasn't bigger than it was four years ago. According to the exit polls, the margin was actually bigger in 2008—13 percentage points. Obama won women 56 percent to 43 percent in 2008. He won them 55 percent to 44 percent on Tuesday.

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