Battle of the sexes? These maps show this election might be all about gender

Posted at 6:48 PM, Oct 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-12 18:50:51-04

The 2016 presidential election could come down to a battle of the sexes.

Aside from a major party nominating the first woman candidate for president, discourse on the campaign trail has heavily revolved around comments about women's bodies, stamina of candidates and so-called "locker room" talk.

Recently published analysis by FiveThirtyEightreveals two drastically opposite electoral outcomes in the presidential race hinging on whether only men or women were to vote. While an obviously hypothetical and unrealistic scenario, it is one that proves to highlight the potentially larger than average gender gap this election cycle.

Hillary Clinton's lead on Donald Trump averages 15 percentage points among women, according to FiveThirtyEight's polling analysis.

If only women were to vote on Nov. 8, Clinton would win 458 electoral votes to Trump's 80, FiveThirtyEight predicts based on poll forecasts and analysis.

The reverse is true if only men were to vote, with Trump winning a sizable 350 electoral votes to Clinton's 188. Among male voters, Trump leads Clinton by an average of 5 points.

New polling from NBC and the Wall Street Journal, taken before Sunday's debate but after the Friday release of the Trump tapes, shows Clinton stretching her lead over her GOP rival by double digits. The results for that poll were not broken down by gender.

While the idea of a sizable gender gap might seem unique to this particular election, political expert and Grand Valley State University professor Don Zinman says that is hardly the case.

"We have noticed a gender gap in presidential elections for about the past 30 years," he said. "You could certainly argue a lot of the changes to both political parties in the 1980s and the issue agendas that came onto the national scene in the 1980s—feminism, abortion rights, LGBT rights—may have helped to sharpen that gender gap.”

Historically, women have been more likely to vote Democratic since the 1980s.

George W. Bush faced a similar gender gap issue during the 2000 election against Democrat Al Gore but still won the electoral college, Zinman said. Bush also successfully narrowed a similar gap in 2004 against John Kerry by performing well among white female voters.

"I do think there will be a large gender gap," Zinman said, when asked about the 2016 race. "The big question is to how large that will be and whether it will eclipse the year 2000."

Zinman cautions not generalizing all men and women in one voting bloc, instead suggesting the gender gaps worth watching are the splits between college educated and non-college educated voters as well as married and single voters.

"While the gender gap is certainly worth our attention, if you unpack beneath that you start to find some very interesting trends as well and subcategories of men and women," he said.

Historically, Democrats have more incentive to widen gender gaps while Republicans fight to close them, Zinman suggests, because the electorate in most states tend to skew slightly more female than male.

On Wednesday, the Trump-Pence Michigan campaign announced the creation of the "Michigan Women for Trump Leadership Team," aimed squarely at voter outreach efforts across the state.

Notable members from West Michigan include Kalamazoo County Treasurer Mary Balkema, former state representative Joanne Voorhees of Wyoming and Diane Hoekstra.

Of course, if the entire electorate "were really restricted only to men, our politics would look a lot different," Nate Silver writes on FiveThirtyEight. "But it seems fair to say that, if Trump loses the election, it will be because women voted against him."