THE POISONED LANDSCAPE -- RACE, GENDER, & ELECTION 2008
Part 4 of Misogyny, Sexism, & the Gender Gap in the 2008 Election
In choosing a nominee, the Democratic Party will not merely be deciding who deserves to win, or who would make the best candidate. It will also be a decision about which poisoned landscape the Party wishes to compete upon --- one in which toxic wildflowers of misogyny and sexism are in full bloom, or one in which the poisonous weed of racism is a constant part of the environment, and needs the merest watering to completely despoil the land.
When the Survey USA (SUSA) 50 State Poll was released on March 6 (conducted Feb 26-28) comparing how McCain does against both Obama and Clinton, simply by looking at the data you could see wide discrepancies in how men and women voted. The trend is clear: men and women voted differently depending upon whether McCain was matched against Clinton or Obama. Women tended to stick with the Democrat regardless of whether it was Clinton or Obama, while men more frequently favored McCain when Clinton was on the ballot. The gender gap was significantly smaller when Obama was on the ballot. Sexism was obviously playing a role in the political landscape.
But it was clear that another factor was at work, a phenomenon described in a recent recent Nicholas Kristof column. When states were broken down by region, the two most consistently Republican/conservative regions showed a significant and consistent difference in the size of their gender gaps. The gap was much larger in the Mountain/Plains states than in The South. Not just sexism, but racism, was a factor in how the 2008 election would play out.
(This is the fourth in a series of articles based on the SUSA 50 state poll examining the impact of sexism and misogyny.
Part One, which looked at the impact of sexism from a national perspective, can be found href="http://www.correntewire.com/misogyny_sex...">here
Part Two, which examined regional difference in the way that sexism impacts the electoral landscape, can be found here
Part Three examined the way in which sexism affects can impact the outcome in individual states, with an emphasis on states where McCain leads Clinton while lagging behind Obama because of gender voting
differences, and can be found here.)
OVERVIEW: TRENDS IN MALE AND FEMALE VOTING, AND OVERALL MARGINS, AS THE PERCENTAGE OF BLACK VOTERS INCREASES
The increase in the Black vote creates profound changes in how men and women support McCain, Obama, and Clinton. Overall, it benefits Clinton, and hurts Obama, when each is matched against McCain.
The chart below describes what happens within the male and female vote, and overall margins, as the percentage of the black vote rises. The proportions are the same, although the positions of the lines have been adjusted for greater clarity. The space between the horizontal axes represents a 5% change. The data is sorted according to black voter percentages in the states, and the gender distributions are “unweighed” data (see Note 1).
The Black that cuts diagonally across the center represents the trend in the increase of black votes, and shows an overall “trend” increase of 27%
The top part of the chart is McCain v Obama, the lower part McCain v Clinton.
McCAIN v OBAMA (upper part of chart)
As the black vote increases:
· McCain’s overall vote totals rise by about 6% (upper Orange line)
· Obama’s overall vote totals decline by about 3% (Dark Purple line)
· Obama’s margin against McCain declines 9% overall (comparative gaps between upper Orange and Dark Purple lines on the left and right side of the chart)
· McCain receives an addition 5% of the male vote. (upper Dark Green line)
· Obama receives 4% less of the male vote. (Dark Blue line)
· Obama’s margin among males declines by 9% (comparative gaps between upper Dark Green and Dark Blue lines on the left and right side of the chart)
· McCain receives an addition 6% of the female vote. (upper Light Green line)
· Obama receives 17% less of the female vote. (Light Blue line)
· Obama’s margin among females declines by 25% (comparative gaps between upper Light Green and Light Blue lines on the left and right side of the chart)
· McCain’s gender gap (the difference between how men an women voter for McCain) remains constant at about 14% (comparative gaps between upper Light Green (female) and upper Dark Green (male) lines on the left and right side of the chart)
· Obama’s gender gap expands dramatically, from about 2% to about 16% (comparative gaps between upper Light Blue (female) and upper Dark Blue (male) lines on the left and right side of the chart)
· McCain’s overall vote totals drop by about 6% (lower Orange line)
· Clinton’s overall vote totals rise by about 5% (LIGHT Purple line)
· Clinton’s margin against McCain improves 11% overall (comparative gaps between (lower Orange and LIGHT Purple lines on the left and right side of the chart)
· McCain receives 7% less of the male vote. (lower Dark Green line)
· Clinton receives 8% more of the male vote. (Red line)
· Clinton’s margin among males improves by 15% (comparative gaps between lower Dark Green and Red lines on the left and right side of the chart)
· McCain receives 6% less of the female vote. (lower Light Green line)
· Clinton receives 5% more of the female vote. (Pink line)
· Clinton’s margin among females improves by 11% (comparative gaps between lower Light Green and Pink lines on the left and right side of the chart)
· McCain’s gender gap increases slightly from about 24% to 21% (comparative gaps between lower Light Green (female) and lower Dark Green (male) lines on the left and right side of the chart)
· Clinton’s gender gap shrinks slightly, from about 16% to about 12% (comparative gaps between Pink (female) and Red (male) lines on the left and right side of the chart)
But these lines really only describe overall trends, and cannot describe the complex interplay between race and gender, and racism and sexism, that define the electoral landscape (for instance while Obama’s gender gap does increase as the percentage of Black voters rises, it does not from 2% to 16%.).
To understand what is really going on, the data must be examined more closely.
RACISM AND SEXISM – WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE PERCENTAGE OF BLACK VOTERS INCREASES
There are obvious patterns that emerge when one compares the gender gap to the percentage of Black voters among the electorate, as shown on Chart Two. It is important to keep in mind that the data is weighed to reflect the impact of changes on overall vote totals. (see Note 2).
Plum line (notched)– The 0% axis. As trend lines go toward the Plum line, gaps decrease, as trend lines go toward the Plum line, gaps increase. (In other words, a line that goes down above the Plum line shows a shrinking gap, a line going down below the Plum line shows a growing gap.)
data points are triangles or other shapes that represent specific data. lines (except for most instances with the Black line) represent “trends” in the data for a particular data series that is the same color as the data points. (See Note 1)
Black data points/line -- Black voter % data (and trend line): The actual percentage of Black voters, and the other data is based on these Black voter percentages (all data points are on the line) The Black % trend line only varies when the data is sorted differently. In general the closer the data points are to their corresponding line, the more likely that the trend line describes something significant in relation to the variable that was used to sort the data.
Blue data points/line – Male gap data and trend: This data/line represents the difference in the male vote when Clinton or Obama is matched against McCain. The Blue line starts above the (Plum colored) 0% axis line, meaning that a higher percentage of men preferred Obama to Clinton in states with few Black voters.
Chart Two shows that as the percentage of Black voters increased, the difference in male support for Obama and Clinton decreased, until there was almost no difference.
Chart Two shows a very slight increase (and therefore probably insignificant) in women’s preference for Clinton as the percentage of Black voters increases (the Red line is under the 0% Plum line, and moves only slightly downward, and away from the Plum line.)
Pink data points/line – Gender gap shift trend line: The pink data points and trend line reflect overall differences and changes in male and female preferences as the percentage of Black voters increases. (Technically, it’s a gender gaps shift, rather than compare gender vote percentages, it considers the gender gaps for each candidate.) The farther from the Plum line the pink line is, the greater the difference in male and female preferences.
The downward slope of the Pink line means than the difference is how men and women would vote decreases substantially as Black voter percentages increases.
Orange data points/ line – White voter shift trend line: The Orange data points and trend line represent the impact, and changes in the impact, of the preference of White voters as the percentage of African American voters increases.
· The Orange line goes down as the percentage of Black voters go up, indicating that the more Black voters there are, the less inclined White voters are to vote for Obama as opposed to Clinton.
· The line shows that where there are few Black voters, Obama gets more White support than Clinton (the Orange line starts above the Plum line.).
· Where there are a large percentage of Black voters, there is less White support for Obama than for Clinton.
· Although the chart does show it, White support for both Obama and Clinton declines as the percentage of Black voters increases, but the decline in White support for Obama is much more pronounced than the decline for Clinton, which is why the White shift line itself goes downward.
(When looking at the Orange line, it is crucial to keep in mind that it reflects “weighed” votes, indicating how changes in the White vote affects overall margins. In other words, to get a 20 point White vote shift in a state with 95% while voters, only about 21% of White voters have to vote differently when Obama, rather than Clinton is matched against McCain. To get that same 20 point White shift in a state that has 75% White voters, 27% of White voters have to vote differently – but the chart reflects only the impact of the change in White voter preference (the 20 point difference) rather than change in the preference itself. The unweighed White shift trend line shows a not-insignificantly sharper decline than what is shown here, indicating a larger difference in White voter behavior. See note 1.)
RACISM and SEXISM – WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE GENDER GAP SHRINKS
The previous section shows how the gender gap decreases as the Black vote increases. By sorting the same data by the gender gap shift, we can see what happens as the gender gap decreases. (note that the numbers at the bottom of the charge reflect the progression of the gender gap shift, and not the percentage of Black voters.)
The first thing that should be noted is that while overall gender gap trends are related to the percentage of African American voters, there is considerable variation. The grouping of Black triangles near the Plum line represent those states with the lowest percentage of African American voters – this group includes all the heavily Republican Mountains/Plains states, and also includes two “home states” (Hawaii and Arizona) where “favorite son” status trumps the gender gap.
It is important to keep in mind that while we are looking at an overall trend, that trend in some senses represents a series of similar “sub-trends”. So while heavily Republican states may not have the largest gender gaps, within the subset of heavily Republican states you see a decrease in the gender gap as the percentage of African American voters increases.
So while there are a lot of Black triangles (representing the percentage of Black voters at that point on the gender gap trend line) grouped around the Black % trend line, there are also quite a few obvious outliers.
The behavior of men and women is significantly different, as the gender gap decreases (and Black voter percentages increase.
By sorting by gender gap, we get a much clearer idea of who is responsible for the changes in the gender gap as the percentages of Black voters increases.
· The gaps within the subsets of males and females both get smaller (close in on the 0% Plum line axis) as the gender gaps decreases (and the percentage of African Americans voters gets larger).
· The slope of the male (Blue) line is less than that of the female (Red) line, telling us that women are more responsible for the gender gap shift that occurs that occurs as the percentage of Black voters increases.
· There are few “outliers” among the male and female data points, just as there were few outliers when the same data was sorted by Black percentages, which strongly indicates that there is a significant correlation between Black voter percentages, and the changes in the gender gap.
Finally, if we look at the White vote shift trend line when we sort the data by gender gap shift, while the White shift vote data points are not closely bunched around their trend line, there is slight downward trend among the grouping, suggesting a relationship between the changes in the White vote, and the changes in the gender gap.
In addition, whether sorted by the percentage of Black voters, or by changes in the gender gap, the White shift trend line remains nearly the same, starting very close to +5%, and with little change in the angle of decline, suggesting that there is a fairly strong correlation between the gender gap sharp, the percentage of Black voters, and the White vote shift.
THE POISONED LANDSCAPE FOR NOVEMBER – SEXISM, RACISM, AND WIN/LOSS MARGINS
The poisoned landscapes described above is not merely an academic concern. Sexism and racism are also having an impact on the win/loss margins in individual states – and will play a major role in how the November campaign unfolds as certain states wind up “out of play” because of either sexism or racism (depending upon the candidate.)
Chart Three below (see note 3) is sorted by the percentage of Republican voters (Grey DATAPOINTS and line), in order to help differentiate between changes that result from an increase of Republicans, and changes that occur for other reasons. Most of the chart itself is unsurprising….
Red (Clinton) and Blue (Obama) data points and lines – Overall vote percentage against McCain. It will come as no surprise to anyone that the more Republicans there are in a state, the fewer votes a Democrat will get.
These Red and Blue lines do, in fact, run parallel to each other, but that merely reflects overall trends over 50 states. The same parallel lines pattern appears when we sort alphabetically with Obama’s showing a slight, but consistent, advantage over Clinton, and the data points appear distributed at random.
The Black data points/line represent the percentage of Black voters in the state(s). Somewhat surprisingly, the trend line suggests that the more Republicans there are in a state, the more Black voters there are.
Orange data points and line - White votes for Obama. The Orange data points/line represents percentages of all votes cast, in other words, the Orange line starts at 40%, it means that 40% of all voters in a state were White voters who support Obama against McCain.
The difference between the Orange (White voters for Obama) and Blue (Obama total vote percentage) data points/lines tells you how much of Obama’s support was “non-White” (i.e., the Blue triangle on the far left right below the Blue line that Obama was supported by 53% of voters in that state (Rhode Island), the Orange triangle directly below it tells you that 45.4% of all voters in that state were Whites who cast their vote for Obama, and thus that 7.6% if voters in that state were non-Whites who supported Obama (53% minus 45.4% equals 7.6%).
Pink (Male votes for Clinton) and Light Blue (Male votes for Obama) data points and lines. Unsurprisingly, as the percentage of Republicans increases, the numbers of male supporters of both Democrats goes down These lines almost always move in the same direction; the size/impact of the gender gap can be determined by how close they are – the further away from each other, the bigger the gender gap.
Both the Pink and Light Blue lines are, like the Orange line, based on weighed data, i.e. they represent a percentage of all “votes” cast. The difference between the Pink line to the Red line (Clinton total %), and the Light Blue line to the Blue line (Obama total %), reflects the female votes cast for Clinton and Obama respectively.
While the Light Blue line remains above the Pink line, showing that sexism continues to play a role in all 50 states, the distance between the Pink and Blue lines decreases. As shall be shown, that decrease in distance is related to the trend of less white support for Obama as black voter percentages increase.
When you look at the data from a different perspective, that of the percentage of Black voters, the trends above are confirmed, and new ones can be seen. The traditional strong support of African Americans for Democrats makes the increase in Clinton’s overall totals, and her increase in male votes, unsurprising.
But we see a different trend with regard to Obama’s data – while Clinton’s margins (Red line) increase as the percentage of traditionally Democratic African American voters increases in a state, Obama’s (Blue line) trends lower as the percentage of African American voters increases.
A similar pattern emerges when we look at male support for the two Democrats. Clinton’s male support (Pink line) increases as the percentage of Black males among male voters increases, while Obama’s male support (Blue line) decreases – virtually wiping out any evidence of sexism as the percentages of Black voters gets higher.
And Obama’s White voter % (Orange) line explains why this can occur, despite his overwhelming support among African Americans. Obama’s race is a not a factor for White voters where race is not a factor in their daily lives, but it would appear that the more African Americans there are in a state, the more White voters resist voting for a Black candidate. The resistance of White voters to a Black candidate is so significant that it overwhelms the influence of the traditionally Democratic black vote as the percentage of Black voters rises, leading to a decrease overall vote totals, and overall male (and female) support for Obama.
But not even this provides a full picture of the way in which sexism and racism intertwine to create two different poisoned political landscapes for the Democratic nominee. Breaking the data down further provides even more insight. (Note: Overlapping state data is used in the following charts in order to provide a clearer sense of the dynamic involved.
There are 24 states where the percentage of Black voters is under 6 %. This includes 8 of 10 Mountain/Plains states (four of which are a 0% Black voters), 5 of 6 New England states (3 of which are the other “0% Black voter” states), 6 of Far West states, 5 of 10 North Central states, and no “Mid-Atlantic” or Southern states. These states also include the full range of GOP voter percentages. In other words, a group of states that manages to be simultaneously incredibly diverse, representative of the GOP as a whole, but unrepresentative of the nation as a whole.
By isolating these states, and sorting by GOP percentages, we get a much clearer picture of the impact of sexism on a political landscape where racism is far less of a factor.
· As expected, both Obama (Blue line) and Clinton’s (Red line) vote totals go down as the percentage of Republicans increase, with Clinton’s totals declining a small bit more than Obama’s
· Obama’s overall totals (Blue line) descend slightly more rapidly than his White vote (Orange line) suggesting that Obama loses support among other etchnic/racial groups as the GOP percentage increases in states few black voters.
· The Orange triangles are more widely dispersed than the Blue and Light Blue triangles, which means that Obama’s loss in total votes is more directly related to the increase in GOP voters, than to racism qua racism.
· Clinton’s (Pink line) and Obama’s (Light Blue line) male support also descend parallel to each other as GOP percentages increase, and their associated data points are grouped close to their respective lines, suggesting that in states with few Black voters, male sexism and misogyny is consistent throughout these states.
· The average difference in male support in these states is 4.9 points in Obama’s favor. (see TABLE 1)
TABLE 1 Average Overall, Male, & Female margins, and Gender gaps (weighed data) Black % total male female g gap <6% Clinton +41.0% +16.4% +24.6% +08.2% Obama +46.8% +21.2% +25.5% +04.2% Differ. +05.8% +04.9% +00.9% -04.0% 4%-19% Clinton +45.7% +18.3% +27.4% +09.1% Obama +45.6% +20.6% +25.1% +04.5% Differ. -00.1% +02.2% -02.4% -04.6% 14%-33% Clinton +43.6% +18.1% +25.6% +07.6% Obama +45.0% +19.8% +25.4% +05.6% Differ. +01.4% +01.7% -00.3% -02.0%
It is in the middle range of “Black voter” states where racism and sexism interact. This is by far the most “representative” and “diverse” group of states: Although the Far West is under-represented (2 of 8 states) here, and this group contains all 5 “Mid-Atlantic” states, it also has 5 of 10 North Central states, 4 of 10 Mountain/Plains states, 3 of 6 New England states, and 6 of 11 Southern States
And by sorting these states by Obama’s White vote percentages, we get trend lines that are not very consistent with 50 state trends, but which reveal why those 50 state trends exist.
· There is a slight increase in overall Clinton’s male support (Pink line) as Black males make up a larger percentage of the male vote.
· White voter resistance to a Black candidate results in Obama losing overall male support (Light Blue line)
· As a result of these trends, Obama’s usual advantage over Clinton among males disappears.
Both Clinton and Obama’s overall vote totals decline when there are a “moderate” percentage of Black voters, but Obama’s totals (Blue line) decline more severely than Clinton’s (Red line) in this subset of states, to the point where Clinton does better in the states with higher percentage of Black voters.
· White Clinton’s male totals increased, her overall vote totals (Red line) decreased, suggesting that increased support of Black women was outweighed by decreased support of White women.
· When this data is sorted by female support for Clinton, the decline in female support for Clinton seems more related to the increase in GOP percentages rather than an increase in the Black vote.
· However, the question remains whether GOP party affiliation of women is driven by racism itself.
· The approximate 12 point drop in Obama’s totals (Blue line) is more than twice that of Obama’s approximately 5 point decline in male support, which means that resistance of White women to voting for Obama overcame additional support that Obama receives as the percentage of Black women increases.
· The steep decline in White support for Obama (Orange line) is much greater than the trend line showing the increase in Black voters as part of the overall electorate (Black).
· White support for Obama also drops far more rapidly than GOP percentages (Grey line) in the states rises, making it clear that race itself, rather than party affiliation, is the factor driving Obama’s White support down as black voter percentages increase.
· While it cannot be determined from the data alone whether GOP affiliation itself is driven by racism, the fact that the Black voter % (Black line) and GOP voter % (Grey line) rise at close to the same rate suggests that there is a correlation.
The trends found in the states with the highest percentages of Black voters are similar to those found in the “moderate Black voter percentage group.” This group includes 7 of 11 Southern states, and 2 of 5 Mid-Atlantic states – and unlike the “moderate” group, is neither representative of the US as a whole, nor very diverse.
But in this group, Obama’s white support (Orange line) declines only slightly more than the percentage of Black voters (Black line) or GOP (Grey line) percentages increase. Much of this is due to the already low white support that Obama has in these states.
But the overall “Republican” nature of most of these states means that both Clinton’s (Red line) and Obama’s (Blue line) total votes decline.
It is the impact of racism that leads to the sharper decline of Obama’s totals, especially in the South. And while there is racism evident in all states with more than a minimal Black voter percentage, not all states are the same.
The impact of racism is also felt in the differences in male support.
Once again, we see the decreasing difference in Obama’s (Light Blue line) and Clinton’s (Pink line) male support as the percentage of African Americans increases. But this chart also demonstrates that in the absence of racism, we see the true impact of sexism. Indeed, the two “non Southern” states in this group, Delaware (triangles at the far left) and Maryland (second highest Light Blue triangle, and the Pink triangle below it) show the greatest differences in male support for Clinton and Obama.
· While there is a “political” gender gap – women tend to vote more for Democrats, and men for Republican, the gender gaps found in the SUSA poll were heavily influenced by sexism and misogyny, and racism.
· In those states where there are few African American voters, race does not generally appear to be a factor, and as a result the impact of sexism and misogyny is easy to detect – and that impact is significant.
· As the percentage of African Americans increases in the electorate, the appearance of the impact of sexism and misogyny is reduced, as white voters who were willing to vote for a white female candidate switch to McCain when the alternative is a black candidate.
· The evidence of sexism and misogyny also dissipates as Black voter percentages increases, apparently due to the traditionally strong support of African American voters for Democratic candidates. (Exit polling consistently shows a smaller gender gap among Black voters than among White voters.)
· Just as racism disguises the full impact of sexism and misogyny in the electorate, so too is it likely that sexism and misogyny disguise the full impact of racism.
While this study makes clear much of how racism itself affects the electoral landscape, the purpose of this study has been to gauge the potential impact of sexism and misogyny on the 2008 Presidential election. A future study will look more closely at the how racism, and positive racial identification, could impact that election.
SEXISM – AN ISSUE, NOT JUST A “FACTOR”
At the time SUSA data was gathered, the Jeremiah Wright controversy had not yet exploded on the national scene, and while “racism” was a factor, it wasn’t really an “issue.” (see Afterword for a discussion of what happens to the gender gap when race becomes an “issue.”)
But when it comes to Hillary Clinton, it is clear that her gender isn’t just a “factor”, but an issue. If she “acts like a woman” and shows emotion, it becomes a topic for endless media discussion and speculation. If she gives a speech to a woman’s group, or she discusses the historic nature of her candidacy, she’s playing the “gender card”. How she looks, including what she is wearing, and how she sounds, are discussed in ways in which the media would never consider talking about a man. She is consistently defined in terms of her husband and marriage, and accused of not getting where she is on her own, but rather because of who her husband is.
The hostility toward Hillary Clinton is visceral, and is comparable to the hostility and hatred directed toward Eleanor Roosevelt in her day. Roosevelt was the first “modern” First Lady – and the first truly post-woman’s suffrage one. While many First Ladies were women of sharp intelligence and political acumen, prior to Roosevelt they stayed behind the scenes. Eleanor Roosevelt completely rejected the then “traditional” role of First Lady, and became a public figure who was a strong advocate for civil rights and human rights, and played a significant role in her husband’s administration.
As a result of Roosevelt’s refusal to only play the “traditional” role of First Lady, both she and her husband were vilified during his Presidency --- it was clear that Franklin Roosevelt didn’t “permit” Eleanor to have a public persona separate and distinct from her husband, he “enabled” it. Tens of millions of Americans, unhappy with the changing role of women in society, saw that “enabling” in the same way that we perceive the enabling of alcoholics or drug abusers – as a sign of weakness, corruption, and cravenness on Franklin Roosevelt’s part, as was as despised as Eleanor Roosevelt was feared, resented and hated by them.
And while most subsequent First Lady’s adopted/adapted the Eleanor Roosevelt model (although Bess Truman is best remembered for being “not Eleanor Roosevelt”), Hillary Clinton represents the first truly “post-women’s liberation” First Lady. Roosevelt and her successors adopted “causes” and “stood in for” their husbands as a representative of the Office of President. Hillary Clinton didn’t adopt causes, she took on issues, and wasn’t just a “stand in” for Bill Clinton, but his alter ego – she represented The President.
Just as Eleanor Roosevelt was hated by millions because she represented the changing role of women, and just as Franklin Roosevelt was equally despised for his role as her “enabler”, so too are Hillary and Bill Clinton hated. It has nothing to do with policies, or politics – it’s a visceral reaction to avatars of change in the relationship between men and women.
As a result, Hillary Clinton is constantly criticized for showing traits that would be considered admirable in a man.
Hillary Clinton isn’t just “ambitious”, she is “too ambitious.” Nevermind the fact that she had spent 14 years in Washington, including 6 years in the Senate, before announcing for President, while Obama spent only two years in DC as a Senator before he announced, and is seldom described as “too ambitious.” Clinton “has spent the last seven years running for President”, a fact that is equally (if not more) true of John McCain, but no one seems to mention that McCain has had his own eye on the Presidency since at least 1999.
Hillary Clinton isn’t “smart”, she’s “too calculating”. She isn’t “assertive”, she’s “too controlling”. Clinton doesn’t “compromise”, she “betrays her principles.” And Hillary Clinton is incapable of righteous anger, instead she is “shrill.”
And, of course, she’s a “bitch”.
And all this happens because Hillary Clinton isn’t just “a woman”, she is a symbol of the true equality for women that the women’s liberation movement sought to achieve, and as such represents a major threat to the subconscious assumption underlying male dominance of society.
As a woman, she isn’t equal to men, she is equal with men; Hillary Clinton represents the rejection of “maleness” as the yardstick by which women are judged. And the moment the word “co-president” was utterred, Hillary Clinton became a threat to everything that men believe on a subconscious level about the “natural order of things”and the subconscious male assumption that men have the right to bestow equality upon women, and define the terms under which “equality” is exercised.
But perhaps Clinton’s biggest “crime” is her refusal to project any sense of sexual availability to men. By not engaging in “sexual politics”, by playing games of flirtation and seduction expected/demanded of women who seek power, she represents a threat to the very core of male identity itself, and a threat to core identity of many women as well.
Hillary Clinton’s gender is an issue, not just a factor, because she is no different from any male politician. She is no more (and no less) deserving, no more (and no less) ambitious, no more (and no less) “unprincipled”. It is her very demand that she be treated equally WITH men that makes it acceptable to talk about, describe, and attack her in ways that people in the media would never consider talking about a man.
Ultimately, the way in which people feel free to talk about Hillary Clinton is their way of asserting that women are ”different” from men, and must be treated differently, and it is Clinton’s insistence upon equal treatment that makes it acceptable to establish that “difference” in negative terms.
The male-dominated media’s treatment of Clinton feeds into every fear that men (and many women) have of true female equality, and not merely allows sexism and misogyny to thrive, but practically demands it. And the huge differences between how men and women vote for Clinton and Obama – two remarkably similar politicians who are both overwhelmingly different from John McCain – shows that the demand is being met.
AFTERWORD: WHEN RACE BECOMES AN ISSUE – THE GENDER GAP OVER TIME
The SUSA 50 state poll provides an excellent opportunity to describe the contours of the political landscape at a specific point in time, but cannot tell us anything about voter behavior over time within that landscape. The image is static; it’s not a movie, but a snapshot (or, perhaps more appropriately, a multi-dimension holographic image), and where voters are “pooled” like a liquids in 50 different areas of that landscape.
As the contours of the landscape change, the voters wind up “pooling” in different places, and a political campaign is the equivalent of candidates and other people trying to shift the contours of the landscape to get the voters to “pool” where they want them. While the actions of the candidates and others can change the contours of the landscape by raising issues and providing new information, the landscape can also change “naturally”. But ultimately, it is “the media” that controls the landscape by controlling the access, and more crucially, the nature of the access, to the levers and pulleys that change the contours of that landscape.
It is “the media” that decides whether “illegal immigration” or “universal health coverage” or “Hillary Clinton’s tax returns” is actually the force determining the contours of the landscape, and decides who has what kind of access to the levers of power as the landscape changes. The SUSA 50 state poll provides a still picture of what looks like a “political landscape”, but when that picture comes to life and the contours begin to shift, it is because what we are really looking at is a “media landscape”.
And as the landscape changes, and the voters “pool” in different areas, the gender gap itself usually changes. South Carolina and Ohio provide two examples of how the gender gap changes as the “media landscape” changes --- but how, when the media decides to make “race” an issue, it can shift large numbers of voters without substantially altering the gender gap.
SOUTH CAROLINA: PLAYING THE PHONY RACIST CARD
When, subsequent to her win in New Hampshire, false accusations that the Clinton campaign was deliberately injecting race into the campaign, it created significant changes in the established trends that defined the changes in the gender gap in South Carolina. And contrary to popular opinion, the efforts of the Obama camp (as documented by href="http://www.tnr.com/politics/story.html?i...">Sean Wilentz) to cast the Clinton campaign as racist backfired – while Clinton lost 3% of her Black support, and Obama gained 5 points among Blacks, the real impact was on Obama’s loss of a quarter of his White support while the controversy raged, and the shift of 12% of the White vote to Clinton.
Once it ebbed, when the voters went to the polls, Clinton had lost the White support she gained during the controversy, but only a small fraction of the White votes (1/7) that wound up “in play” found their way to Obama. Ironically, all these changes had little visible impact on Clinton’s gender gap – and considering the major shift in candidate preference, the impact of these changes in gender distribution for Edwards and Obama was negligible in the short term. If the “racial controversy” in South Carolina had any impact on the gender gap, it was in altering the trends that would have continued had the controversy not taken place.
Thanks in no small part to overwhelming positive media coverage (and a media that all but ignored John Edward) for Barack Obama. By early November 2007 Obama, a candidate with less than three years of national political experience, had managed to establish himself solidly in the number two position for the Democratic nomination. Hillary Clinton’s was still getting twice as much support in national polls as Obama,but Obama was getting twice the support third place Edwards. Obama was rapidly becoming the candidate of choice for the “anyone but Hillary” crowd, and had even managed to overtake Edwards in Iowa.
But after starting strong in the national polls in the winter of 2007, by early spring Obama had stalled, and started fading over the summer as Clinton increased her own support. Obama began picking up steam again in early October, apparently because Al Gore had made it clear that he was not running. (by mid- October, most pollsters were no longer including Gore in its questions on the Democratic nomination.)
And thus the stage is set for the first Democratic primary poll taken by Survey USA in South Carolina, href="http://www.surveyusa.com/client/PollRepo...">conducted on Nov. 9-11, showed Clinton with a solid 14 point lead over Obama, with Edwards mired in third place. And while Obama was already ahead of Clinton among males by 19 points, her even more substantial, 33 point lead among women (who were projected to make up 62% of the electorate) gave Clinton a nice cushion. The gender gap was at its peak in November in South Carolina, with a 52 point spread between Obama (Light Blue line) and Clinton’s (Pink line) gender gap numbers.
Obama was also well ahead among African American voters, getting the support of a clear majority (dotted Blue line) of 52% to Clinton’s 39%. But perhaps most significant, in terms of this discussion, is Edwards’ incredibly poor showing among Black voters: after winning a plurality (37%) of the Black vote in the 2004 primary, and spending four years focusing on issues of important to the Black community (like poverty and economic justice), Edwards was only getting 3% of the Black vote.
But Obama was lagging well behind in the White vote, with Clinton at 55% (solid Red line) to Obama’s 15% (solid Blue line.). This data suggests that Obama had established himself as a viable enough candidate for African Americans to support as a gesture of positive social identification. But in early November White voters on the whole remain unconvinced. The data also strongly suggests that in early November, there was a considerable gender gap among Black voters --- Clinton’s overwhelming support among women, Obama’s strong showing among men and African Americans, and weakness with White voters (and subsequent gender and racial polling trends) seem to show that a significantly large percentage of Black women than Black men were supporting Clinton at that time.
Two polls taken over the subsequent five weeks (December 7-9 and Dec 17-18) show that both Clinton and Obama maintain about the same percentage of the male vote, with Edwards gaining 11 point among men. Edwards also picks up six points among women, while Obama gains 8 points while Clinton loses 8 points among women. As a result, Clinton’s lead over Obama was cut to 2 points. The loss of women for Clinton and the increase in female support for Obama results in the shrinking of their respective gender gaps.
However, during the same period, there was little change in Clinton’s Black support (-2%) or Obama’s White support (+3). Obama also picks up an additional 5% of the Black vote. But the big change is in the White vote loss of 11 points for Clinton, and Edward’s gaining 15% more of the White voters. Clinton was looking increasingly vulnerable, but White voters shifted to Edwards, and not Obama.
SOUTH CAROLINA PRIMARY POLLS (gender) date Clinton Edwards Obama Undec Undec g. gap g. gap g gap male female Nov 9-11 -30% 1% 22% 15% 8% Dec 7-9 -29% 5% 22% 7% 5% Dec 17-18 -22% 6% 15% 3% 2% Jan 4-6 -7% -1% 7% 5% 4% Jan 16-17 -7% 3% 2% 4% 2% Jan 23-24 -6% 6% -2% 5% 3% Exit (jan 26) -7% 7% 0%
It is during the next three weeks that the most dramatic changes in the gender gaps took place – a period during which Obama overtook Clinton in Iowa polls and subsequently won the Iowa caucuses. The poll
taken on Jan 4-6 shows that while Clinton lost only 2% of the male vote during the period, one third of her female support fell away (going from 50% to 33%) while Obama picked up 14% of women voters. Obama also increased his male support by 6%, and Edwards lost the same amount of male support.
As a result of these shifts, major changes in the gender gaps for the candidates too place. Clinton’s gap was reduced by nearly 70%, going from negative 22 to negative 7 (a negative gender gap number means that a candidate has more support among woman than men, a positive number means male support is greater). Edwards’s gap also dropped substantially (by 7 points), to where there was almost no difference in how the genders voted for Edwards. And Obama’s gender gap was reduced by more than half, from 15% to 7%.
It also during this “pre-controversy” period that Clinton loses the biggest chunk of her Black support, going from 37% of the Black vote to 23%, while Obama picks up an additional 12% of Blacks (and Edwards loses 1%). Clinton and Edwards also loses 8% and 4% of their White vote respectively, while Obama picks up 11%. Because Edwards gender gap drops substantially, and he lost 4% of Whites and 1% of Blacks, it is safe to say that most of the gender gap drop was due to the loss of White males. This fact, and the fact that Clinton lost only 2% of her male support, tells us that the Black voters that shifted to Obama were significantly disproportionately female.
SOUTH CAROLINA PRIMARY POLLS (race) BLACK VOTER PERCENTAGES Date Clinton Edwards Obama Undecided Nov 9-11 39% 3% 52% 6% Dec 7-9 39% 2% 56% 3% Dec 17-18 37% 5% 57% 1% Jan 4-6 23% 4% 69% 4% Jan 16-17 20% 3% 74% 3% Jan 23-24 18% 6% 73% 3% Exit (jan 26) 19% 2% 78% WHITE VOTER PERCENTAGES Date Clinton Edwards Obama Undecided Nov 9-11 55% 17% 15% 13% Dec 7-9 51% 23% 19% 7% Dec 17-18 46% 32% 18% 4% Jan 4-6 38% 28% 29% 5% Jan 16-17 50% 26% 22% 2% Jan 23-24 38% 38% 21% 3% Exit (jan 26) 36% 40% 24%
It is at this point that the “racial code-word campaigning” accusations against Clinton started to fly, and they reached their peak right before the next polling was done on Jan. 16-17. Obama finally admitted that there was nothing “racial” in the comments of Bill or Hillary Clinton right before the Jan. 15th debate in Las Vegas, but never acknowledged that not only his supporters, but his own campaign, were responsible for the phony controversy.) And while the biggest impact was on racial voting patterns, it also had an impact on the gender gap.
The changes that occurred can best be accounted for by simply assuming that South Carolinians, both Black and White, know the difference between real “dog whistle” racism, and false accusations of the intentional use of “racial code.” Black voters recognized that the accusations were false, and during the controversy Clinton lost only 3% of her Black support, while Obama’s Black support rose by only 5 points. (Indeed, given that Obama wound up with 78% of the Black vote in SC, when he got at least 85% of the Black vote in subsequent southern primaries in Louisiana, Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama, the controversy may have dampened African American enthusiasm for his candidacy in SC.)
White Democrats, meanwhile, seem to focus not merely on the fact that the accusations were false, but where those accusations were coming from, and as a result of the controversy Obama lost 7%, or nearly a quarter, of his White support. White undecideds fell from 5% to 2% in this period, and Edwards also lost 2% of his White support, resulting in Clinton going from 38% of the White vote to 50%. This strong White shift back to Clinton can best be explained by the idea that White Democrats began to identify with Clinton, based on their own fears (or experiences) of being falsely accused of racist intent.
Ironically, these changes had no impact on Clinton’s gender gap – she picked up 6% of both the male and female vote. But Obama lost 7% of his male support while losing only 2% of his female support, resulting in a 5% reduction in his gender gap. And Edward’s male support went up by 2% during this period, while his female support went down by 2%, resulting in a net increase of 4% in his gender gap.
The subsequent SUSA poll, taken on Jan 23-24 after the controversy had died down and right before the Jan. 26 primary, shows little change in the Obama’s percentages of Black and White voters, but his gender gap numbers decline anyway by four points – this can be explained by noting that the change in the racial distribution of the sample occurred. (see Note 4) And while there was a 12 point shift in the White vote from Clinton to Edwards, given the distorting effects (see note 4) of the change in demographic distribution, it is difficult to say that any real change is reflected in the slight changes in Clinton’s and Edward’s gender gap numbers.
What is most surprising about the final gender gap numbers from the South Carolina exit poll is how small they are, and how the injection of race appears to have altered the trends that were established. Less than two months before the primary, there was a 51% difference between the Clinton and Obama gender gap numbers, the exit poll numbers show only a 7 point gap. The “racial code” controversy seems to have completely erased the gender differences with regard to Obama, leaving only the 14 point gap between the White male and White female candidates to testify to the existence of such a gap, and gender gap numbers that were inconsistent with the trends established prior to the controversy erupting.
In other words, South Carolina showed on a temporal basis what was seen in the SUSA 50 state poll snapshot – racial considerations tend to “flatten out” in elections.
PART 2 –OHIO: FEAR OF A BLACK PREACHER
As a crucial swing state for November, Ohio has been among the most polled of all states when it comes to prospective presidential matchups. Thus it provides an excellent setting in which to examine the changes in the gender gap over time – and what happens to the gender gap when “race” suddenly becomes an issue.
USA’s first “match-up” polling that included both Clinton and Obama against McCain was taken on Dec 3-5, 2007. It was a time when few Ohioans were focusing on the Presidential campaign (after all, the general election was almost a year away, and the nominations would be settled well before the Ohio primary, right?) It was a time when McCain was mired in the teens in href="http://www.pollster.com/08-US-Rep-Pres-P...">GOP primary polling,
a newcomer named Barack Obama was getting a lot of good press, and while Clinton was maintaining her lead in the national polls, she was not looking quite as inevitable as a few months prior before.
Thus this poll, and the next two SUSA polls, taken href="http://www.surveyusa.com/client/PollRepo...">Dec 13-15 and Jan 1-4, should be given little emphasis in terms of how McCain, Obama, and Clinton were doing relative to each other. But it they do provide the first clues of how the gender gap changes as voter attitude changes. (Note that gender gap number is based on Male percentages MINUS female percentages, and is not directly related to changes in male and female margins. A positive gender gap number means greater support from men, a negative gender gap number means higher support from women.)
OHIO: MARGINS – TOTAL & GENDER TOTAL MARGINS & GENDER GAPS Clinton v McCain Obama v McCain Margins Gender Margins Gender All voters gap All voters gap Dec 3 -8% -17% -11% -13% Dec 13-15 0% -20% -9% -12% Jan 1-4 -2% -10% -7% -16% Feb 15-17 10% -9% 3% -11% Feb 26-28 10% -6% 10% -2% Mar 14-16 6% -6% -7% -2% MARGINS BY GENDER Clinton v McCain Obama v McCain Male Female Male Female Dec 3 -26% 8% -26% 2% Dec 13-15 -20% 16% -19% -1% Jan 1-4 -12% 8% -22% 8% Feb 15-17 0% 19% -8% 14% Feb 26-28 5% 16% 9% 11% Mar 14-16 2% 9% -10% -4%
As Clinton’s margins against McCain in these polls went up by six points (from –6% to –2%, her gender gap was reduced by seven points (from –17% to –10%), entirely due to a relative increase in male support (from a 26% deficit to a 12% deficit among males.) But while Obama also improved against McCain (from -11% to –7%) his gender gap expanded got larger, going from –13% to –16%. This occurred because Obama did better among both men and women, but he improved the most among women, resulting in a lower negative number.
The next two SUSA polls (Feb 15-17 and Feb 26-28) both took place after “Super Tuesday” and “Potomac Tuesday”, when the race for the Democratic nomination was focused on Ohio (and Texas). Both Clinton’s and Obama’s margins jumped to 10 points over McCain, a 12 point gain for Clinton, and a 17 point gain for Obama between the early January and late February polls.
And the gender gap for both candidates also shrank over that period. Clinton’s was reduced 4 points to –6% as she gained 17% (from –12% to +5%) among men, and 8% points (+8% to +16%) among women. Obama’s gender gap was reduced from –16% to –2%, as his male margin against McCain leaped from –12% to +5%, while his female margin increased only 3 points, from +8% to +11%.
Ohio provides an excellent way of understanding how the gender gap operates over time. It grows and shrinks based on the relative increases and decreases of support of male and female voters of both candidates. And Ohio shows how men and women don’t make the same decisions at the same time.
Or that is, they don’t make the same decision at the same time most of the time.
The next SUSA poll was taken on March 14-16, and shows that Clinton’s overall support against McCain (Red line) dropped by 4 points, while her male margin (Violet line) dropped by three points, and her female margin (Pink line) dropped by 7%. But her gender gap remained the same. In fact, her male and female support remained unchanged (supported by 47% of men, and 53% of women in both the late February and the March poll), the change in margins was due entirely to undecided voters choosing McCain. The previous poll showed 11% male, and 10% female, undecided voters. This new poll showed that only 8% of men and 3% of women remained undecided.
Some of this should be attributed to a significant change in the voter sample, which went from 26% Republican and 49% Democrat to 34% Republican and 44% Democrat.) and a possible reporting error. The previous poll Party affiliation numbers added up to only 93% (26% GOP, 49% Dem, 18% Independent); in previous polls, and the March poll, those numbers added up to at least 96%. In fact, given these disparities, its not unlikely that there was little or change at all in the actual relative support for Clinton between these two polls
But while Clinton’s support remained relatively stable, the same cannot be said for Obama. Those three sharply decending lines on the Chart A3 represent Obama’s male (Light Blue), female (Light Green), and overall (Dark Blue) margins against McCain. Obama’s 9 point advantage over McCain among men became a 10 point deficit, his margin among women dropped from +11 to minus four, and he went from leading McCain by 10 points to trailing McCain by 7. However, Obama’s gender gap did not change.
Obama’s went from having the support of 49% of men and 51% of women to only 42% of men and 44% of women, while McCain’s support among men went from 40% to 52%, and his support among women went from 40% to 48%. Even adjusting for the potential glitch described above, McCain’s support would still have risen to 49% among men, and 41% among women.
All this seismic shift in Obama’s support can be explained with two words, Jeremiah Wright.
Obama’s white (solid Orange line) support had risen steadily, and because Ohio’s electorate is 87% White, his 12 point increase in White support (from 34% of White voters in mid-December to 47% at the end of March) meant an increase of 10.4% of voters overall. And most of Obama’s gain in White support came at McCain’s expense—McCain dropped from 51% to 42% of the White vote during the period that Obama was gaining, contributing another 7.8% of voters to his overall margin shift of +19 points during that period.
But when the Wright controversy hit, Obama’s White support dropped from 47% to 37%, representing 8.7% of voters. Meanwhile, McCain went from having 42% of the White vote against Obama to 56%, an increase of 13.9% overall. Even assuming the potential glitch mentioned above was all White voters who were added to McCain’s support, McCain’s White support still increases by 4%, resulting in an increase of 3.5% of all voters, and a combined net gain for McCain of 12.2% of voters.
And while Obama’s Black support did rise from 78% to 84% during this period, because African Americans are only 10% of the Ohio electorate, that 6 point jump represents on 0.6% of voters, far too few to make a significant difference in the decline of Obama’s margin against McCain
OHIO: MARGINS – SUPPORT BY RACE SUPPORT BY RACE Clinton v McCain Obama v McCain Whte Black White Black Dec 3 39% 78% 36% 77% Dec 13-15 43% 63% 34% 75% Jan 1-4 42% 74% 36% 88% Feb 15-17 49% 70% 42% 84% Feb 26-28 49% 64% 47% 78% Mar 14-16 48% 64% 37% 84%
And, based on the reported data, Obama’s gender gap did not change during this period. And while we can’t be certain that this is the case because of the potential glitch, because the impact of that glitch seems to have been felt only in McCain’s numbers, Obama’s gender gap would have been unaffected.
Overall, this massive change in voter preference represented an end to a trend where Obama’s gender gap was shrinking rapidly, and the Wright controvery brought that to a screeching halt. Unfortunately, Survey USA has not done a poll since the controversy died down, so we can’t determine if/how much longer term damage was done to Obama in Ohio, and how those changes are reflected in the gender distribution of his support.
Note 1: The term “unweighed data” is used to describe the data as it was reported by SUSA in its state by state crosstabs. This data compares each group against itself – for example, it tells you that in Maryland McCain received 51% and Obama 41%, of the White vote, with 8% undecided. And while that information is good to know, there is significant variation in racial demographis between states.
As a result, in order to understand the impact on the overall vote totals the data is “weighed” based on the percentage of the electorate that the category represents. In a state like Maine, whose electorate is 97% white, “weighing” the 51%-41%-8% White vote breakdown would mean that McCain was preferred by 49.5% of all voters, Obama was preferred by 39.8% of all voters, 7.8% of voters where “undecided white voters” and there was an additional 3% of “non-white” voters. But in Maryland, whose electorate is 68% White, the 51%-41%-8% split does not signify that McCain has nearly a 10 point lead over Obama, instead, when the data is “weighed” we see that 34.7% of voters, prefer McCain, 27.9% prefer Obama, there are 5.4% “white undecided” voters, and an additional 30% of “non-white” voters.
While overall vote totals and margins, and the percentage of Black voters, are always “unweighed” data by definition, depending upon the purpose being served, in this article sometimes “unweighed” data is used, and other times “weighed” data is used – and which kind of data being used is noted in the text. The data used for this Chart One and a full explanation of the methodology used in this article can be found href="http://www.glcq.com/election08/susa_gg4_...">here.
Note 2: For information on weighed data, see Note 1 above.
In this chart, where there is more than one state with the same percentage of Black voters, their other data is averaged to come up with a single value corresponding to that percentage of Black voters. The data used for this Chart Two and a full explanation of the methodology used in this article can be found href="http://www.glcq.com/election08/susa_gg4_...">here.
Note 3: Unlike Chart 2 (and its subcharts0, which used average data when there were multiple states with the same percentage of Black voters, Chart 3 and its derivatives are created with one data point for each state. The data used for this Chart Two and a full explanation of the methodology used in this article can be found href="http://www.glcq.com/election08/susa_gg4_...">here.
Note 4: The racial demographics of the SUSA polls shifted from poll to poll; and changes in those demographics would have an impact on the gender numbers, especially close to the election when there was less of a gender gap among Black voters than White voters (the patterns revealed from the previous poll strongly suggest that the gender gap was initially wider among Black than the exit polls showed. For more information on this topic, look href="http://www.glcq.com/election08/susa_gg4_...">here.
**(4/11/08 10:30 AM) some changes have been made to the graphics and text due to a minor error in calculation of the "gender shift" value. Most notable is that the relative slopes of the male and female vote changes in relation to the gender gap -- the female trend angle is now greater than the male trend, indicating that women play a greater role in the changes in the gender gap.