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The Gender Gap Among Midterm Voters Looks Huge — Maybe Even Record-Breaking

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.

Poll(s) of the week

The gender gap — the fact that women tend to vote Democratic at a higher rate than men do — has been a persistent feature of American politics, and it’s only getting wider. According to 2016 exit polls, women voted for Hillary Clinton by 13 percentage points, and men voted for President Trump by 11 points. That 24-point gap in the national popular vote was the biggest in the history of the presidential exit poll.

This week, we got a poll showing that same 24-point gender gap in the only “national” election of 2018: the national popular vote for the U.S. House. A YouGov survey found that male voters preferred the Republican candidate by 9 percentage points, while female voters preferred the Democratic candidate by 15 points. It was a bit of an outlier, but not egregiously so: A RealClearPolitics-style average1 of generic-ballot polls taken in the past two weeks reveals a gender gap of 16 points, and the two highest-quality polls from that period — Quinnipiac and Marist — each showed a gap even bigger than 24 points. If YouGov, Quinnipiac or Marist is correct, then just like 2016 broke a gender-gap record for presidential races, 2018 will have the widest gender gap in congressional elections since at least 1992.according to exit polls.

The gender gap in the House popular vote

According to exit polls, since 1992

Year Among Men Among Women Gender Gap
2016 R+12 D+10 22
2014 R+16 D+4 20
2012 R+8 D+11 19
2010 R+14 R+1 13
2008 D+6 D+14 8
2006 D+4 D+12 8
2004 D+6 D+6 0
2002 R+12 EVEN 12
2000 R+10 D+8 18
1998 R+8 D+6 14
1996 R+8 D+10 18
1994 R+16 D+6 22
1992 D+4 D+10 6

Sources: Voter Research & Surveys, Voter News Service, Edison Research

And that’s not all. This week alone, pollsters released no fewer than four polls showing a gender gap even greater than 24 points in state-level elections:

  • In a Quinnipiac poll of Texas’s U.S. Senate race, Republican Ted Cruz won male respondents by 20 points, but Democrat Beto O’Rourke won female respondents by 6 points — a 26-point gender gap. (There were no exit polls of Texas in 2012, the last time this seat was on the ballot.)
  • In a Texas Lyceum poll of the gubernatorial race in the Lone Star State, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott won likely male voters by 30 points and likely female voters by 3 points. That’s a 27-point gap. Four years ago, exit polls indicated that Abbott won men by 34 points and women by 9 points — a similar 25-point gap.
  • In a Suffolk poll of the Nevada governor’s race, Republican Adam Laxalt leads among men by 15 points. On the other hand, Democrat Steve Sisolak has a 13-point lead among women, making for a 28-point gender gap. (There are no exit polls of the 2014 Nevada gubernatorial race to compare to.)
  • In the same Suffolk poll of Nevada, men prefer Republican Dean Heller, the incumbent, in the U.S. Senate race by a 20-point margin. Women opt for Democrat Jacky Rosen by 16 points. That’s a 36-point gender gap. When Heller was first elected in 2012, he won men by 10 points and lost women by 6, per the exit polls — a 16-point gender gap.
  • According to a Mason-Dixon poll of Florida’s U.S. Senate race, Republican Rick Scott is winning men by 21 points; Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson is winning women by 15 points. That’s another 36-point gap! According to exit polls, the last time this seat was on the ballot, Nelson won men by 4 points and women by 20 points, for a 16-point gap.

If women were the only ones who voted, races that are closely contested now would turn into Democratic blowouts, today’s safe Republican seats would turn into toss-ups, and Democrats would win the House popular vote nearly every time. But, of course, men make up almost half of the electorate too, and history and the polls show that Democrats can’t count on their support. (Men may yet vote Democratic — the exit polls suggest they are more likely to swing their votes in response to current events than women are3 — but they probably won’t do so by 7 or more points, which is the overall margin that analysts estimate Democrats need to flip the House.) If Democrats win the 2018 midterms, it will almost certainly be because of the strong support they get from women.

Other polling nuggets

  • Ohio’s 12th district votes in a special election to choose a new U.S. Representative on Tuesday, and the polls we have so far show Democrat Danny O’Connor has closed the gap on Republican Troy Balderson in what may end up being a close race. The seat has been held by Republicans since 1983, when it was occupied by now-Governor John Kasich.
The latest polls in Ohio’s 12th district show a close race
Start End Pollster Pop. O’Connor Balderson Diff.
7/27 7/29 Public Policy Polling V 44.0 48.0 -4.0
7/26 7/31 Monmouth University* LV 45.0 46.7 -1.7
7/23 7/25 GBA Strategies LV 45.0 48.0 -3.0
7/10 7/13 GBA Strategies LV 43.0 48.0 -5.0
6/13 6/16 JMC Analytics LV 35.0 46.0 -11.0
6/9 6/12 GBA Strategies LV 41.0 48.0 -7.0
6/7 6/10 Monmouth University* LV 37.7 48.0 -10.3

*Monmouth University polls are an average of three likely voter models: the “Low Turnout,” “Standard Midterm” and “Democratic Surge” models.

V = Voters. LV = Likely voters

  • 5 percent of Americans described themselves as vegetarian in a new Gallup poll, and that hasn’t changed much since Gallup began asking the question in 1999. Three percent described themselves as vegan.
  • According to a YouGov poll, 62 percent of Americans find the jury system “very” or “somewhat” effective. The poll also found that 10 percent of men have lied to get out of jury duty, but only 4 percent of women have done the same.
  • 71 percent of Republicans said in a Harvard/Harris poll that they oppose the backlash from “Republican leadership” to Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin.
  • The older you are, the more likely it is that you like homework according to a recent YouGov poll, which also found that 64 percent of Americans said homework was helpful in their own education. A majority, 56 percent, said they would oppose a homework ban in their district; 28 percent would support one.
  • According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, 60 percent of Americans said it would be appropriate to change the genetic makeup of a baby to reduce the child’s risk of developing a serious disease over the course of a lifetime. That’s compared to only 46 percent who said the same in 2014 and 41 percent in 2003. Seventy-two percent said that changing a baby’s genetic makeup to treat a serious disease the baby would have at birth is appropriate, while only 19 percent said it is appropriate to do so to make a baby more intelligent.
  • 61 percent of Americans, including 79 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of Republicans, oppose allowing people to make their own guns on a 3D printer, according to a YouGov poll. The president, after consulting the National Rifle Association, seems to agree.
  • Zimbabweans went to the polls Monday to elect a new president after Robert Mugabe was forced out in November following 37 years of rule. According to a Gallup poll, 47 percent of Zimbabweans are confident in the honesty of their elections. That’s down from 55 percent last year, but a far cry from 10 percent, which is where it was in 2008.

Trump approval

This week, Trump’s net approval rating in our nifty tracker is -11.4 points: 41.4 percent of Americans approve of his job performance, and 52.8 percent disapprove. That should sound pretty familiar, as last week his net approval was -11.7 points (with 41.3 percent approving and 53.0 percent disapproving). The president’s public standing has been pretty steady for a full month now: On July 2, his net approval sat at -10.2 points, with an approval rating of 42.0 percent and a disapproval rating of 52.2 percent.

Generic ballot

Democrats are currently ahead in polls of the generic congressional ballot by 7.1 percentage points (47.4 percent to 40.3 percent), according to FiveThirtyEight’s updating average. At this time last week, Team Blue was ahead by 8.2 points: 48.1 percent to 39.9 percent. The numbers one month ago were more like today’s: Democrats 47.4 percent, Republicans 40.0 percent, which translated to a 7.4-point lead.

Check out all the polls we’ve been collecting ahead of the 2018 midterms.


  1. Specifically, I took an average of the margins in each pollster’s surveys of the race and then averaged those averages. That way, one pollster can’t skew the numbers if it released a disproportionate number of polls.

  2. Again, according to exit polls.

  3. The standard deviation in their national House popular vote since 1992 has been 8.4; women’s has been 4.5.

Nathaniel Rakich is a senior editor and senior elections analyst at FiveThirtyEight.

Dhrumil Mehta was a database journalist at FiveThirtyEight.