Thursday, March 6, 2008

Those Fickle Female Voters!

(Note: This post has been updated with a data correction)

Joe Klein has a column today in which he lays at least part of the explanation for Hillary Clinton's wins this week on the response of female voters to the now SNL skit about press coverage of the campaign.

According to Klein:
"A feminine fury was abroad in the land; on March 4, women represented a staggering 59% and 57% of the Democratic electorates in Ohio and Texas, respectively."
So once again, similar to the the alleged feminine reaction to the Diner Moment, it was the response of Fickle Female electorate to surface-level issues that turned things around for Senator Clinton. In effect, the gals rallied around the gal.

I have no idea if women responded differently to the SNL skit than men did, but I can say that there was nothing spectacular about female turnout in the March 4 primaries.

The figure below examines the female composition of the March 4 primaries, relative to other primary and caucus states for which exit poll data are available:

Here we see that the female percent of the electorate in March 4 states (pink bars--I couldn't resist) was, on average, well, slightly below average (mean across states = 58.3%). So the "staggering" turnout of women on March 4 was anything but that.

And what about the assumption that Clinton's fortunes are tied to the relative turnout of female voters? The general logic is that if more women than men turn out to vote, Clinton's vote share will increase. This makes sense, given the nature of the gender gap in candidate preference this primary season.

However, the figure below shows that there is a weak and NEGATIVE (r=-.34) relationship between female percent of the electorate and Clinton's percent of the Obama/Clinton vote (Note: tossing out various home states and Florida doesn't change the picture very much).

In fact, a couple of Clinton's strongest showings were in states like Oklahoma and California where the the female share of the electorate was well below average.

Of course, this is just a simple bivariate snapshot, and it's possible that with a series of appropriate control variables, a more theoretically pleasing pattern would emerge. But these data certainly blow a hole in the idea that all Senator Clinton has to do is turn out the female vote.

1 comment:

Steve Roth said...

Great charts. Real data! Yow.

On the subject:

Why is John McCain attacking Obama with everything he's got?

Because he knows that if Hillary's the candidate, the 'pubs will turn out in droves. She doesn't deserve it, but it's a fact.

Polls don't mean anything without turnout. And sadly, Senator Clinton will turn out the Republicans. We can't risk that.

The Economist:

"If Democrats were to deprive Mr McCain of the chance of running against Hillary Clinton, that would be the cruellest blow. Mrs Clinton would be a one-woman solution to the Republicans' problems, a guarantee that money will flow into the party's coffers and that true-red voters will troop to the polls."

"If what should be a cakewalk in November turns into a rout, the Democrats will know who to blame."