A new Times-CBS poll suggests that the presidential race is tightening, though it's worth remembering that the questions were asked when Hillary Clinton was receiving even more negative public attention than she usually does. Here's the summary table from the poll:
Polls are not elections, of course, and direct comparisons with past elections are not without problems. Still, I decided to look at two rows in that table in order to see how they compare to what happened in the 2012 presidential election and in the 2014 mid-term elections.
Those two rows are the percentages of likely voters who are white women and white men*. In the above table white men go for Trump 57-33, while white women narrowly go for Clinton 46-45.
What happened in 2012? Sixty-two percent of white men voted for Romney, 56% of white women did. Those figures reflect the traditional party split among American whites. The reasons for that split are many. In the 2012 presidential election these reasons were suggested:**
Without much doubt, attitudes about race—and even outright racism—played a role, although one that is hard to quantify. But it’s far from the only thing. Income is important. On average, white men and women tend to be richer than non-whites, and voting Republican is strongly correlated with income. (In families that made less than a hundred thousand dollars a year, Obama won by eight points. In families that made more than a hundred thousand dollars a year, Romney won by ten points.) Age is another factor. Whites, on average, tend to be older than non-whites, and older people (male and female) tend to vote Republican in greater numbers. Religion is also part of the story. Most white women, like most white men, are churchgoing Christians, a group that is strongly Republican—especially evangelicals, who voted for Romney by almost four to one. Then there is ideology. Just as there are conservative men, there are conservative women.
The 2014 midterm voting patterns reinforce the above arguments: Sixty-four percent of white men voted Republican in that election, and so did 56% of white women.
Is there anything useful we might glean from those comparisons, given that the 2016 numbers come from a poll, that third-party candidates complicate analysis and so on?
I believe that a Trump-As-A-Misogynistic-Asshat*** effect is visible in those findings, especially when it comes to the possible voting patterns of white women this year. The majority of white women have traditionally voted for Republicans, but that may not necessarily be the case this year.
And the difference is because the man who is running on the Republican ticket this time is a man who doesn't even bother to hide his sexism the way past Republican candidates have hidden it.
But is there an effect from the Trump-As-A-Know-Nothing candidate? I'm not sure, because I don't have the time to do the kind of digging that would be required to guarantee that the numbers from various years are at least somewhat comparable. But it looks like there might be one.
* Because these are still the largest voter groups and because Trump's support is especially strong among white men. It's not weak among white women, either, and both these numbers make me sad. Trump is a racist and sexist egomaniac. That so many people are fine with that makes me sad and cynical.
** That paragraph is about the 2012 elections where racism had a more open role to play. Sexism will take a comparable role in the 2016 elections.
Note, though, that the quoted explanation doesn't quite explain why in 2016 whites without college education might prefer Trump 58-32, whereas whites with college education prefer Clinton 51-40. The latter group has the higher income. But the case of one Donald Trump might be exceptional.
** He is also a racist asshat, a person knowing very little about the job he is applying for, a person who seems unable to contain his own temper tantrums, and a person who just might decide to nuke some country because he had a bad-hair day. Which is every day of the year.