August 18 2014
At the Independent Women’s Forum there’s a number we are very familiar with: 11. That was the gender gap in the 2012 presidential election. President Obama – and his big-government policies – maintained a double-digit lead over Gov. Romney. And when you looked closer the number is even bigger. Unmarried women, for instance, supported the president by 36 points in 2012.
This is what we refer to as the gender gap. The growing gap between men and women and their support for Republicans and Democrats, respectively. Democratic pollster Dotty Lynch, who passed away last week at the age of 69, is often associated with identifying and exploring the idea of the gender gap in the early 1980s.
As the New York Times noted:
She based the approach on what was then a newly minted concept in political circles: the existence of a gender gap in voting patterns. Ms. Lynch and others, analyzing exit polls from the 1980 and 1982 national elections, had discerned a wide disparity between male and female voters on fundamental issues like war and peace, help for the needy and economic growth: Women, who tended to be more peaceable, more amenable to government help for the needy, and more likely to favor bottom-up rather than top-down strategies for economic growth, were more likely to vote Democratic and could not necessarily be expected to vote the way their husbands did, as old-school political operatives had always thought.
Lynch’s work on the gender gap not only fueled debate among pollsters and political operatives (it’s widely know that Democratic pollster Pat Caddell fired Lynch who he thought was making more out of the gender gap), but her work ultimately laid the foundation for campaigns like the War on Women 30 years later. Today recognizing, understanding, and seizing on gender differences is a mainstay of Democratic politics. And it's something that the Right still has a long way to begin to understand. Men and women are different and that's something Dotty Lynch understood deeply.
Anyone interested in women and politics ought to take a minute to read about Lynch’s extensive career in the world of public opinion.