The GOP should be worried about its declining share of the male vote
Other than whites, the other big voting bloc going unnoticed for the 2016 U.S. general election is men.
As a study from the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University has shown, substantial gender differences in voter turnout have emerged since 1980: “In every presidential election since 1980, the proportion of eligible female adults who voted has exceeded the proportion of eligible male adults who voted. In all presidential elections prior to 1980, the voter turnout rate for women was lower than the rate for men.”
In 1980, the gender gap was negligible. The voting rate for men was 61.5 percent, and for women it was 61.9 percent. The gap has progressively widened over the last 9 elections to nearly 4 percent. Most notably, the male voting rate has actually declined by nearly 2 percent over this time, whereas it increased by almost 2 percent for women.
Males are getting turned off from voting, undoubtedly because parties take their vote for granted, are unconcerned about their vote, or even engage in campaigns that are either purposefully or unintentionally working against the interests of men.
This hurts at election time, particularly for the GOP. George W. Bush lost the popular vote in 2000 in large part because of the near historically low voter turnout from males (just 58 percent that year). Of the males who did vote in that election, 54 percent voted for Bush and just 43 percent for Al Gore. Had the Republicans worked on getting out slightly more of the male vote, there would have been no need for the subsequent events surrounding Florida.
Between 2000 and 2012, the percentage of voting women who cast their ballots for the GOP was unchanged at 44 percent, up from 38 percent during the 1992 and 1996 elections, and essentially unchanged from the 47 percent in the 1980 election. By comparison, the percentage of voting men who cast their ballot for the GOP declined from 54 to 52 percent between 2000 and 2012.
Men have always voted more for the Republican presidential candidate than women do, and over the last four elections, the GOP has been bleeding the male vote, while the vote from women for the party did not change. A classic example of what happens when conservative parties start playing identity politics: they start losing their core constituencies faster than they are gaining their special interest vote.
If we look at the percentage of eligible voters who voted for the GOP presidential candidates, the point is reinforced. In 1980, 33.8 percent of all potential male voters cast their ballots for the Republican candidate. By 2008, this had dropped to 29.5 percent, recovering only slightly to 31.1 percent in 2012. The percentage of all potential female voters who voted for the GOP candidate was 29.1 percent in 1980, 28.2 percent in 2008, and 28.0 percent in 2012. In other words, over these three decades, the GOP lost the potential male vote almost five times faster than the potential female vote.
Perhaps the GOP should be targeting its outreach efforts at the far larger number of male voters it lost?
Since 2000, the difference is even more stark. The percent of potential women voters casting their ballots for the GOP actually increased. The male potential vote exhibited the reverse trend – declining.
A smart conservative electoral strategy seeks to build its voter base via principled policies that are blind to identity and other special-interest political games, all the while retaining the core constituency (i.e., male, predominantly white voters). The GOP has been headed in the opposite direction.
Some aspects of life are zero-sum games, and to play a winning hand you need to recognize this. If you forget, you lose. And always remember to dance with the one that brought you. This latter principle seems to be one that purportedly conservative parties throughout the West have a propensity to need a continuous electoral reminder about.