Politico's Ben Smith recently authored an interesting column
, noting that a gender gap is largely responsible for the Republican "wave."
While the information revealed in the column was fascinating to me, the analysis seemed to rely on merely noting that men tend to be more conservative than women. As Smith writes:
Analysts cite a political climate that is apparently ineffably male - though the question of cause or effect is beyond the capability of polling.
... Doug Schoen, a centrist pollster who's worked for Bill Clinton, Michael Bloomberg and Charlie Crist, said grass-roots conservatism's focus on spending has less appeal to women.
"Fiscal conservatism appeals primarily and principally to men," he said. "Women are more concerned about a social safety net and less impacted by the movement to fiscal conservatism/tea party."
In my estimation, this analysis is true, but fails to fully explain the phenomenon.
To be sure, there has long been a gender gap in which men tend to skew Republican, while women tend to skew Democratic. And it is also true that this moment in time seems ripe for those who care about fiscal conservatism, and if more men than women care about that issue, it is reasonable to conclude men would be more motivated to vote this year.
But the truth is that men aren't just academically
interested in fiscal conservatism this year -- they are emotionally invested in it -- and that explains the enthusiasm gap.
A New York Times
column from last year may provide some clues:
The proportion of women who are working has changed very little since the recession started. But a full 82 percent of the job losses have befallen men, who are heavily represented in distressed industries like manufacturing and construction. Women tend to be employed in areas like education and health care, which are less sensitive to economic ups and downs, and in jobs that allow more time for child care and other domestic work.
If men are being hit dramatically harder than women by the recession, isn't it reasonable to conclude that men would be more motivated to vote this year?
Aside from the logic involved here, it's also important to note cultural reasons why losing a job may hit a man harder -- particularly a man living in a culturally conservative area. Because of traditional gender roles, it seems apparent that losing a job often negatively impacts a man's very identity.
In fact, a recent study demonstrated that men are more upset about losing a job than about a cheating spouse
I'd say this is a highly emotional issue for out-of-work men, and I expect to see it translate into anti-Obama votes this November.