Bob Dole is facing a daunting gender gap, and his chances in November may depend on how many female voters he can lure back to the Republican party. Margaret Warner crunches numbers with pollsters Andrew Kohut and Linda Divall.
MARGARET WARNER: Now the numbers on the gender gap and what's behind them. For that, we're joined by Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, an independent polling organization. Joining him is Linda Divall, a Republican pollster who is advising the Dole-Kemp campaign. Welcome, both of you. Andy Kohut, give us the dimensions of this gender gap. How large is it? Is it--does it have certain demographic particularities?
ANDREW KOHUT, Pew Research Center: The gender gap has changed, that's the first thing to note about it. When we first discovered a difference between men and women, it was mostly the fact that women, there's a larger Democratic plurality among women. This was in the early 80's. Now we have a plurality of women saying they identify with the Democratic Party and a plurality of men saying they identify with the Republican Party, a very significant difference and one that's playing a much greater role in ‘96 than in ‘92.
The--in our poll, which has a pretty modest margin between Dole and Clinton compared to other public opinion polls, we have a 5 percentage point Clinton margin among men, but a 15 percentage point margin among women. In other polls that gap is even greater.
MARGARET WARNER: And is that also with Republican women, or is it strictly a question of Democratic women being--
MR. KOHUT: All of the things--
MARGARET WARNER: --alienated from the Republican Party?
MR. KOHUT: All of the patterns that we see among men and women generally also play out within the Republican Party. You know, we've heard a lot about the fact that Bob Dole doesn't have the usual 90 percent loyalty from Republicans. Well, that's in part because only about 75 percent or 78 percent of GOP women are supporting him, compared to 85 percent of Republican men. So this gender gap exists within the Republican Party and obviously with--outside of it.
MARGARET WARNER: Are you finding the same thing, that you have a gender gap even within your own party?
LINDA DIVALL, Republican Pollster: Yes. I mean, overall, we're finding that President Clinton wins by about 10 points with men and wins by about 19 points with women. This was in polling through last week and before the selection of Jack Kemp. But also to reinforce what Andy just said, we're finding that with Republican men, Sen. Dole has about an 8 point greater advantage than he does with Republican women. The point that I should make is that at every stage of comparable men to comparable women, very conservative women, very conservative men, independent men, independent women, the gender gap is existence at every stage.
I should also point out, though, that the gender gap is not unique and specific to Bob Dole. The gender gap has been in existence since 1980. So if Andy were to run as a Republican tomorrow, he would probably inherit a gender gap and to have to work to resolve that to try to eliminate that. It's almost regardless of his personality, party perceptions come into play, as Andy just said, in terms of men being more Republican and women being more Democratic, so a Republican challenger will start out with that gender gap.
MARGARET WARNER: As Susan Molinari just said to Elizabeth, she, herself, as a gender gap, and she's a Republican woman.
MS. DIVALL: Why did it start in the early 80's?
MR. KOHUT: Well, I think it started in reaction to Ronald Reagan and the Republican victory in 1980. But I think what it is--has become--is the culmination or reflection of a big values gap between men and women. It's not only a values gap about women being more supportive of social welfare programs. There's a varied and wide difference, consistent difference, between men and women on a whole range of fundamental issues.
Men are more angry about taxes. They want to see government scaled back to a greater extent than women. They are more supportive of business than women. Women are more enthusiastic supporters of the environment. There is a wide range of differences in the way men and women think about political issues, fundamental political issues.
MARGARET WARNER: How do you explain that?
MS. DIVALL: Well, I think one clear explanation for it is that women tend to see a greater role for more activist government than men do. I mean, Andy is right. Men are mad at the taxes they pay; they want government out of their lives. Women are not necessarily looking for big government and more intrusive government, but they do appreciate certain things that government does well, approval of food products, protecting Social Security and Medicare for their parents, making certain that prescription drugs are safe for their children, so one of the goals of this Republican convention, I think, needs to be twofold: No. 1 is to kind of change the face and the perception of the Republican Party.
You noticed last night with General Powell's speech the plea for compassion and civility, there was a very strident tone that was communicated four years ago on opening night, that was totally diminished last night, eliminate that extremist label. People had looked at the Republican Congress in the past and have applied that label. Gen. Powell's speech last night and Susan Molinari's keynote speech tonight, you're going to see, I want to say, a new Republican Party, but that's not the case at all, but you'll see Republicans showcased who demonstrate the values that Andy was talking about, have a sense of enthusiasm and compassion, and want to do the best that they can to communicate what Republican principles are, and relate that to individual circumstances and individual lives.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you agree that tone is as important as issues or is very important to women?
MR. KOHUT: I think tone is important to women. I think a lot of--a lot of the Republican Party's image problem among both men and women is it's seen as a party that doesn't care about poor people, disadvantaged people, and women see a harshness in Republicans, see a harshness in Republican leaders, and then, of course, we have to say one word that symbolizes this for, especially for women, and that's Newt Gingrich.
MS. DIVALL: I would say probably it's more Pat Buchanan than it is the speaker. If you go back to four years ago, that's when our problems began. The speaker is a very enthusiastic and optimistic person. I think a lot of the policies, and specifically I go back to the Mediscare campaign and to the government shutdown, really did a lot to put that negative perception on the Republican Party, but the speaker is an optimistic person.
The problem that the speaker has right now is that some of the party perceptions, mostly due to the Mediscare campaign where they used that--lifted that quote and misapplied the speaker's quote in terms of what he said about Medicare, totally misused that, that's something that they've spent millions of dollars putting forward that's absolutely false.
MARGARET WARNER: But would you say that this convention is also intended, in part, to muffle or soften or smooth the edges that at least women voters received about Newt Gingrich and his MO?
MS. DIVALL: Actually I think I would say and the speaker would say as well that this convention is not about the speaker. This convention is about showcasing the Republican Party and its principles, defining Bob Dole to make certain that at the end of this week people have a different perception of the Republican Party and understand how our policies connect to people. The Dole economic package means a lot, as you heard Susan Molinari speak about. Women are being faced with fundamental pressures in their life.
They have a very high tax burden, particularly working moms. The balance between work and our family, a lot of what Sen. Dole is addressing, is being targeted right to that audience and trying to improve women's lives and allow them more opportunity, more disposable income, and the ability to make certain that future generations have every opportunity the same way that they do.
MARGARET WARNER: And let me just ask you, Andy, in your numbers, to what degree does this gender gap also affect Republican or Democratic fortunes in the congressional elections?
MR. KOHUT: Well, I think the same gender gap that applies to Bob Dole and Bill Clinton applies to the congressional. The one thing that we haven't mentioned is abortion because there's not a gender gap on abortion and the irony that there's--
MARGARET WARNER: Really?
MR. KOHUT: --been so much of a debate about abortion in this, in this convention and its ability to appeal to Republican women. Republican women and Republican men have about the same views on abortion. They lean to a pro-life position, but they are divided, and non-Republican men and women also have the same views. There's not a--this is not an issue--this is not a gender issue, even though it's often pointed to as the quintessential one.
MARGARET WARNER: Well, that's all the time we have. Thank you both very much.