Magazine article Insight on the News

Gender Gap Not Deep Enough to Trip a Fall

Magazine article Insight on the News

Gender Gap Not Deep Enough to Trip a Fall

Article excerpt

Though differences between sexes is an easy way to divide the vote, those in the know realize that for forecasts, it's too general. Age, income, marital status and location are more reliable indicators.

Four years ago, political pundits and the press mused about the "year of the woman" after 54 women were elected to Congress. Now they're talking about the gender gap, trying to pin down the voting habits and political preferences of women.

It's no wonder. Both Democrats and Republicans claim that female voters will provide the winning presidential candidate with the margin of victory Women voters comprise slightly more than 50 percent of the American electorate, depending on what area of the country is surveyed, according to Anita Perez-Ferguson, president of the National Women's Political Caucus, or NWPC. Speaking to international reporters at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Perez-Ferguson complained about the number of people who misunderstand the term "gender gap."

"The gender gap is often miscommunicated as the difference that women feel between one candidate and another," she says. "In actuality, it is a measure of the margin between the favorable votes of women for a candidate and the favorable votes of men for the same candidate."

But the NWPC's research of the 1994 election found that age, income, marital status, location and makeup of household--whether rural, suburban or urban, and whether with or without children--are just as reliable and significant indicators of voter behavior as gender alone.

"The gender gap, we have found, is too general. Yes, there are males and females and it's a nice, tidy, easy way to divide the vote," says Perez-Ferguson, whose 25-year-old group provides financial support to pro-choice female candidates of both parties. "[But] all of these indicators right down to a person's marital status can predict more about the voting behavior of American voters than simply the gender gap."

Before the two national political conventions, Perez-Ferguson says, the gender gap was much more visible--women were gravitating toward President Clinton. But the Republicans used their San Diego week in the spotlight to highlight their moderate, popular women such as New York Rep. …

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