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Huge Gender Gap Powers Obama Lead Over Romney Huge Gender Gap Powers Obama Lead Over Romney

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The Next America - Politics 2012

Huge Gender Gap Powers Obama Lead Over Romney

(AP Images)

Another new national poll confirms that President Obama's lead over Mitt Romney is now powered largely by an overwhelming preference for the president among socially-liberal, well-educated women.

The ABC/Washington Post survey released early this month showed Obama leading Romney overall by 51 percent to 44 percent among registered voters, which replicates his margin of victory in 2008 over John McCain.

Like national, swing state, and state polls released in early April, the ABC/Post poll found that Obama was benefiting from a huge gender gap: overall he led Romney among women by 19 percentage points, while trailing among men by eight points. But, as in those earlier surveys, the president's advantage did not extend to all women.


In the ABC/Post survey, Romney led among white women without a college degree-the so-called waitress moms-by 48 percent to 42 percent, according to figures provided to National Journal by  Gary Langer, the pollster for ABC News and president of Langer Research Associates. Obama's showing among those women was virtually unchanged from the 41 percent he attracted among them in 2008, according to exit polls. Republicans have carried those women, who tend to be both more socially conservative and economically squeezed than their college-educated counterparts, in every presidential election since 1988, except for Bill Clinton's 1996 reelection.

In the new survey, Obama also showed no improvement from 2008 among college-educated white men: Romney led among them by a solid 55 percent to 42 percent. That 42 percent matched exactly Obama's showing with those well-educated men in 2008. (That was actually the best Democratic showing with those men with 1988.)  Among white men without a college degree, the poll shows Obama losing ground from 2008, with Romney holding an overwhelming 61 percent to 32 percent lead among them. For Obama that's down significantly even from the meager 39 percent he won with those blue-collar men in 2008. (Since 1988, the Democratic share of the vote among those men has varied only between 34 percent and Obama's 39 percent.)

But college-educated white women have moved decisively toward the president, the poll found. In 2008, he carried 52 percent of them, which equaled the Democrats' best showing among them since 1988. In the new ABC/Post survey, he now routs Romney among those well-educated women by 60 percent to 39 percent, according to the figures provided by Langer. These women tend to be more open to activist government, but also more socially liberal-and the most likely to recoil from the staunch social conservatism on issues like contraception that has dominated the latter stages of the GOP presidential primary.

Democrats have carried those well-educated white women in four of the five previous presidential election and run essentially even among them in the other (2004). Still the 18-point gap between Obama's vote among the non-college and college-white women in the new survey would by far the largest difference between the two groups since 1988.

When added to Obama's commanding lead among minority voters-he is attracting about three-fourths of both minority men and women in the ABC/Post survey-the president's strength among well-educated white women is enough to provide him his solid overall lead in the survey.  

The ABC/Post results closely track the trends from the national and swing state surveys released last week by Gallup; and recent swing state polls conducted in Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio and Virginia by Quinnipiac University. As National Journal noted, in all of those polls, Romney led Obama among white women without a college degree, as well as among white men with and without degrees. But the president held big advantages among college-educated white women, as well as minority voters of both genders, and lead overall in each of those surveys as well.

All of these polls underscore the likelihood that Obama's Electoral College map is likely to run heavily through states shaped by both diversity and increasing levels of education-the same powerful social forces that he embodies. They also pinpoint the challenge Romney faces in loosening Obama's hold on the most socially liberal component of the white electorate-college-educated women-after a series of primary and legislative fights that have identified with the GOP with an array of socially-conservative positions, from eliminating federal funding for Planned Parenthood to allowing employers to deny health care coverage for contraception if it offends their moral beliefs.

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