SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 18, 2012

Anderson: Minding the gender gap

Barbara Anderson
The Salem News

---- — “The gender gap — the difference between how men and women vote — represents on average a seven-point gulf between the sexes during presidential elections. Though there was evidence of some voting differences between the genders as far back as the 1960s, many political scientists date the emergence of the modern gender gap to the 1980 election, which served as the culmination of years of change in women’s lives. By then, more women were working, more were single and living on their own. The women’s movement reinforced the growing sense that women’s political interests could and should be different than those of their husbands and fathers.”

— Libby Copeland, Slate magazine, Jan. 4, 2012

Oh please. Now I’ll write about the Barbara gap — the difference between me/women like me and women who can be convinced by Democrats that there is a Republican “war on women.”

The big difference I saw between 1977, when I started collecting signatures on ballot questions, and 1980, when I collected signatures on Proposition 21/2, was that during the later petition drive far fewer women were asking their husbands if they should sign.

That was permanent progress. But I was surprised to learn that there was a gender gap with Prop. 21/2, a larger percentage of men than women voting for it. I’ve never understood this — why would women want higher property taxes? — but it made me doubt my assumption that we are all individuals, unable to be classified by sex, race or anything but common sense.

I’ve heard the theory that many women moved from dependency on men — fathers, then husbands — to potential dependency on government. But if that were true, these women would want government to remain viable, not falling deeper and deeper into debt. At this point, they’d join the tea party, connecting with other women who are concerned about their children and grandchildren being burdened with that debt. So what am I still missing?

In January 2012, Pew Research found that 70 percent of men knew that China holds the most U.S. debt ... while only 49 percent of women knew that. Men beat women on every question, from what the unemployment rate was (men won by 14 percentage points) to other hotter issues in the news. Someone at The Atlantic theorized that “maybe all the knowledgeable women voters were just too busy with work-life balance to answer the phone when the pollster called.”

I’d buy that if weren’t for men who don’t answer the phone if there’s a sports event on television or if there’s someone else in the house.

I do understand that men are likely to be more hawkish than women: They were playing war games, in the backyard or with their electronic toys, when girls were playing with dolls. But why would there be a gender gap on economic issues? Why would women want to give more power to government, which is mostly run by men?

Still, there must be a reason that Democratic politicians always make a big deal about “women’s issues,” even though, according to political scientist Karen Kaufman, polls have shown that men and women closely track one another in their views about abortion, and birth control hasn’t been controversial with anyone since the aforementioned 1980.

I just got a phone call linking me to a live John Tierney Town Hall. Listened as he told a caller that his opponent wants to deny women cancer screening. Please. What woman would believe that anyone wants to prevent women from getting cancer screenings?

Are some women, for some reason, more likely to believe lying politicians on any number of subjects?

For instance: Are women less likely than men to believe that the Obama administration lied about the Benghazi attack, insisting that it was a response to an anti-Islam video instead of a planned 9/11 terrorist event that should have been prevented? I’m outraged about the murder of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, and what seems to be a State Department cover-up; why wouldn’t all women be?

This year, many Democrats pander to what they think is “the women’s vote” with accusations that Republicans oppose equal pay for women (without noting that women who work for the Democratic National Committee earn less than the men). Republican politicians rush into defense mode led by their wives and daughters, who may or may not get equal pay for some similar jobs somewhere.

Both sides seem to think they have to use women to voice-over their ads. Male candidates who debate female candidates are expected to pull their punches, even though it seems to me that genuine respect would mean that they wouldn’t.

I’ve known since that Prop. 21/2 campaign that many women voters are different from me. But so are many men voters, or government would be under taxpayer control by now, Obama wouldn’t be president, and Tierney wouldn’t still be my congressman.

I’m thinking that the “gender gap,” like the “war on women,” is fabricated, at most a self-fulfilling prophecy. My dream is to be part of a majority of all voters, come Nov. 6.

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Barbara Anderson of Marblehead is a regular contributor to these pages.