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The Gender Gap


Paul earlier linked to this Eric Levitz discussion of the gender gap in the American electorate that is now more like a gender grand canyon. It’s really fascinating, because Trump has MORE support in the Latino community in 2020 than he did in 2016 because that kind of swaggering asshole behavior very much appeals to the machismo so dominant in many Latin American nations. You’d think that locking babies in cages would at least lead to some decline in his support, but no, in fact, because too many Latino men just find Trump personally appealing.

In 2016 exit polls, Trump boasted slightly higher support among Black and Hispanic voters than Mitt Romney had four years prior. Exit polls are infamously unreliable, and the difference between the Romney and Trump vote shares was tiny. So, the confounding 2016 results were plausibly disputed and then widely ignored. This year, however, the absence of “Latino cohesion” has become unmistakable.

In mid-September, the voting public as a whole was leaning about five points more Democratic than it had been in 2016 — and yet Hispanic voters were leaning nine points more Republican than they had been four years earlier. In a cycle with a more popular Democratic nominee — and a Republican incumbent presiding over an economic and public-health catastrophe that disproportionately harmed Hispanic communities — Trump nevertheless appears to enjoy more support within that community than he did before taking power. His standing among African American voters, meanwhile, appears to be the same or better than it was in 2016 in most national surveys, which is to say Joe Biden’s large improvement on Hillary Clinton’s performance in general-election polls is driven primarily by Democratic gains among whites. And this means that race is a less reliable predictor of voting preference in the Trump era than it was in the Obama one.

Of course, this does not mean that America isn’t riven by identity-based divisions. Our polity might not be as polarized by racial demographics as it was pre-Trump, but it is more polarized by attitudes toward racial inequality and immigration. And although 2016’s conventional wisdom about how Trump’s bigotry would reshape each party’s racial composition has proven false, the common sense about how Trump’s misogyny would reshape each party’s gender composition has been vindicated. In fact, to a large extent, the latter development explains the former.

Barring a giant polling error, the 2020 election will witness the largest gender gap in partisan preference since women gained the franchise. As CNN’s Harry Enten observed earlier this month, Biden’s average lead among women in recent interview polls is about 25 points; no nominee of either party has ever led by that much among women in a final preelection survey, not even in the landslide years of 1964 and 1984. And yet, in those same surveys, Trump leads among men by three points. In 2016, the gender gap in voting preference was 20 points; if current polls hold steady, it will be 28.

The historic salience of gender in our politics partially explains Trump’s surprisingly resilient standing with nonwhite voters. In a Fox News poll released earlier this month, Trump’s support among nonwhite men was two and a half times higher than his support among nonwhite women (25 and 10 percent, respectively). Last week, Jennifer Medina of the New York Times reported on the centrality of machismo to Trump’s appeal among Mexican American men:

[W]hat has alienated so many older, female and suburban voters is a key part of Mr. Trump’s appeal to these men, interviews with dozens of Mexican-American men supporting Mr. Trump shows: To them, the macho allure of Mr. Trump is undeniable. He is forceful, wealthy and, most important, unapologetic. In a world where at any moment someone might be attacked for saying the wrong thing, he says the wrong thing all the time and does not bother with self-flagellation.

… They said they saw his defiance of widely accepted medical guidance in the face of his own illness not as a sign of poor leadership, but one of a man who does his own research to reach his own conclusion. They see his disdain for masks as an example of his toughness, his incessant interruptions during the debate with Mr. Biden as an effective use of his power.

“We saw him being a boss,” said Edwin Gonzales, 31, who held a large American flag outside the Trump campaign office. “And for him to go down the escalator is basically the same thing — it’s like, ‘Dang, the boss has stepped down and he’s putting himself out there to be the president.’ That’s what’s exciting.”

As these quotes indicate, the fact that Trump’s performance of masculinity resembles a misandrist caricature — with its compulsive braggadocio, bawdy innuendos, and shameless, nigh-simian dominance displays — is a prime cause of 2020’s unprecedented gender polarization.

The Latino vote is very complicated and anyone thinking that it is going to inevitably look like the Black vote is really oversimplifying things. Of course, given the history of California politics after Pete Wilson, one can see that Republican racism can permanently alienate Latino voters. It may in fact be that the one kind of Republican that really can dip into the Latino vote at this point is a Donald Trump, which on the other hand destroys Republicans among women of all races. We will see in the next few years. Does Comrade Hawley appeal to Latinos while also talking about locking up their relatives in cages (while of course OUTFLANKING Dems by proposing austerity)? Who can know?

The other thing to note here is that while we talk a lot about racism as the largest problem in our society and there is a minority that talks about class division as the largest problem in our society (as if one can properly talk about one without the other), it’s entirely plausible that the most intractable issue in misogyny, which cuts across all racial lines and gets far less attention in any part of the intellectual discourse.

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