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Does Hillary Clinton Have A Gender Gap Problem?

A Commentary by Fran Coombs

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A lot of men don’t like Hillary Clinton. Or at least that’s what our polling seems to suggest.

While much has been written and said about Donald Trump’s gender gap with women, our new White House Watch survey last week found that Clinton trailed the presumptive Republican presidential nominee by 22 points among male voters. By comparison, Clinton had an 11-point advantage among women.

But while men tend to lean Republican, it’s more than a partisan thing when it comes to Clinton. In a head-to-head matchup the same week with her Democratic rival, Bernie Sanders, Trump led by just eight points among men while losing women by 15.

The problem may be getting worse for the likely Democratic nominee. Late last month, while Clinton posted a 10-point lead over Trump among women voters, she was 13 points behind among men.

In fact, by late February, despite Trump’s high negatives, men were already slightly more likely to say they would definitely vote against Clinton than definitely vote against him. Women were far more likely to be pro-Clinton even then. 

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The gap when it comes to voter trust on various major issues is equally noticeable. Men are more critical of President Obama’s performance in most areas than women are. When it comes to handling the economy, 48% of men feel Trump would do a better job than Obama, but only 10% think Clinton would perform better.  Among women, 48% believe Trump would do worse than Obama, while 50% say Clinton would do about the same.

Similarly, when it comes to national security, 42% of men say Trump would do a better job than Obama, but just 14% say that of Clinton. As with the economy, more women think Trump would do a better job than Clinton, but 52% of women think he would do a worse job on national security issues. Just about as many women (51%) expect Clinton’s performance in this area to be about the same as Obama's.

As for the selection of the next justice to the U.S. Supreme Court, men express more confidence in Trump by a 49% to 38% margin, while 55% of women think Clinton would make a better choice.

Even pitted against Sanders, men trust the Vermont senator over Clinton when it comes to the economy and social issues but give the former secretary of State the edge on national security. Women trust Clinton more in all three areas.

The answer isn’t as simple as the age-old battle of the sexes. Men (78%) were just as likely as women (79%) to say they would personally be willing to vote for a woman president the last time we asked.  Women are nearly as skeptical as men, too, when asked if there is a political “war on women.”

So what is it about Hillary Clinton that turns off male voters? Rasmussen Reports will be exploring that more in the weeks ahead.

Some pundits have suggested that it’s her voice, her stridency, but it doesn’t seem that simple. Exit polls following Democratic primaries have found that even voters in her own party question her honesty. Last fall, 57% of men said the former secretary of State was not honest in her disclosures and testimony related to the attack in Benghazi, Libya in September 2012 that led to the murder of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans. Forty-seven percent (47%) of women agreed.

With Trump and Clinton already locked in a neck-and-neck race, both sides are sure to try to exploit the gender gap. Clinton and her allies in the media are already portraying Trump as a sexist. Trump has fired back that his opponent’s defense of her husband’s sexual antics makes her an enabler of anti-woman behavior.

Trump will be on dicier ground with any blatant appeals to men, but his continuing tough talk and anti-PC behavior will probably serve him well enough. Men and women strongly agree, too, that female candidates shouldn’t be treated any differently than male opponents.

Will the male vote make a difference this election cycle? We’ll see.

Fran Coombs is the managing editor of Rasmussen Reports.

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Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports. Comments about this content should be directed to the author at   fran.coombs@rasmussenreports.com.

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