Friday, October 19, 2012

Romney's Binder Is Full of Women

At least it is according to Chris Cillizza. I saw Cillizza's article yesterday and meant to write about it but didn't get the chance. I like Chris Cillizza and I think he generally has some smart and interesting things to say about electoral and legislative politics. But not this time.

He reviews data from the ABC/Washington Post poll and finds that Mitt Romney "doesn't have a woman problem." Cillizza finds that over the last 3 polls (a fair measure) Romney has been trailing the President among likely female voters by 7 points on average. Cillizza asks us to assume Romney loses among women by 7 ...
That would be a better showing among women than John McCain made in 2008 (lost women by 13), George Bush made in 2000 (lost women by 11) and Bob Dole made in 1996 (lost women by 16). It would be roughly equal to the eight-point margin that George H.W. Bush lost women to Bill Clinton in 1992.

So, for all of the chatter about Romney’s women problems, he is currently positioned to do as well or better than every Republican presidential candidate among female voters save one: George W. Bush in 2004 who lost among women by just three points to Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry.
Cillizza is arguing that Romney "doesn't have a woman problem" because he's doing as well or better than ... the last 4 Republican nominees to lose the national popular vote. This is the literal equivalent of arguing that the Cubs are doing just fine this year because they're on pace to win more games than the Houston Astros ... who also had a miserable season.

There's another problem with this insane logic. Cillizza points out that McCain lost women by 13 and Romney's doing better than that so he "doesn't have a woman problem." But here's the problem. McCain lost nationally by 6.5. Romney is doing 6 points better among women by this metric so let's say he's doing 6 points better nationally. That leaves Obama ahead by 0.5 points. And given Obama's advantage in key swing states, a national popular vote win almost definitely means a win for Obama in the Electoral College.

But wait, there's more. Here's a different way to calculate what a 7-point deficit among women means. In 2008, the gender gap was 12 points. Barack Obama won by 13 among women and by 1 among men. If you assume a 7-point deficit among women and hold the gender gap constant, then Romney wins by 5 among men ... and loses the election by about 1 point. But the most recent ABC/Washington Post poll has Romney losing by 7 among women and winning by just 1 among men. In other words, Romney seems to have a "man problem" too! He's losing by 3 overall in that poll and it is because he's underperforming among men.

Here's the bottom line. There are slightly more female voters than male (Thank God!). Romney doesn't want to be in a situation where he's losing in the high single digits among the larger group AND there is a smaller gender gap.

Cillizza is right about one thing. Romney is not in a worse position than the four most recent Republican nominees to lose the national popular vote. Like the Cubs, he will not come in last. But he ain't on track to make the playoffs either.


Thomas said...

Do you see any signs of Obama having a giant meltdown like the Yankees had this post-season?

Larry Becker said...

From what I read, ARod also has a "woman problem."

Jonathan Keller said...

I'd like to offer one sorta correction, and a question:

I wouldn't say there are "slightly more" women voters than men. In 2008, about 53% of voters were women, 47% men. I.e. around 10 million more women then men voted in 2008. That's kind of a lot, seems to me.

Anyway, assuming the gender split re: # of voters nationally is around the same this time (any reason to assume differently, btw?), do you know, are there any swing states that are outliers re: men/women voting %'s?

In other words, presumably the 53-47 (or whatever it is this time) won't be uniform across states. Is the gender division a special variable, in other words, in any swing states?

Larry Becker said...

Maggie Omero at had a piece about the gender gap last week that outlines how stable the gender gap has been in this election. The gender gap is not uniform across states but that is likely a function of other variables (how urban is a state, number of married vs. unmarried people, race, etc.).