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Women's Heavy Disapproval Of Trump May Not Cut So Deep Against GOP In 2018 Midterms

Kiara Romero, 20, from Rockville, Md., joins the Women's March demonstrators as they walk past the White House on Jan. 20.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Most American women dislike the job that President Trump is doing. Many demonstrated it by marching in the streets by the tens of thousands on the first anniversary of his inauguration, and they continue to register it in public opinion polls, giving the president a starkly lower approval rating than men do.

As November approaches, Republican candidates will have the president's low approval numbers in mind as they decide whether they want his support: Will they want him to stump for them? To appear in ads? To record robocalls? GOP candidates for Congress may well find themselves wondering: Do I have the same troubles with women voters as the president does?

We dug into the polling to figure this out, and the answer appears to be that Republicans have pretty low support from women, but they can take some cold comfort in knowing that it's not as off the charts as things are for Trump.

In the run-up to congressional elections, pollsters routinely ask people, "If the election were held today, would you vote for the Republican or Democrat in your House district?" (or some variation on that question). That's what's called "generic ballot" polling.

Right now, Republicans aren't doing great in generic ballot polling, down by around 7 or 8 points. By a sizable gap — 16 points — women favor Democrats, while men support the parties about the same, a nearly 1-point advantage for Republicans.

To gauge how significant that gap is, we took three registered-voter polls from mid-January to mid-February of each midterm year over the past two decades, and averaged them together. This mitigates the danger of any one outlier poll from throwing the results off too much.

First things first: It's clear that there's pretty much always a gender split in the generic ballot, just as there is in presidential approval, just as there is in presidential voting. So that's not anything new.

Both men and women are giving Democrats more favorable numbers than in any midterm since 2006, when the party won control of Congress. But the gender split isn't unusual, as women's support of Republicans isn't uniquely low at a time when women's support of the president isvery low.

This may suggest that, for as much as women particularly dislike Trump, that dislike isn't exacerbating the numbers for Congress. Republicans are struggling among both genders ahead of this year's midterms, just as a party historically does when it has a president in his first term.

On Wednesday, Gallup reported that Trump's approval among women has been 12 points lower on average than it has been among men. That 12-point gender split is twice as big as the gender split that past presidents have had in their first years. Women currently favor Democrats over Republicans in the 2018 campaign by about 16 points more than men, which is on track with the gender gaps in 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014.

There is a big caveat to comparing the generic ballot to approval ratings: They aren't the same thing. Approval and the desire to re-elect are two different questions.

It is also easy to draw too much from these numbers.

Still, GOP candidates might look at the data and reasonably conclude that Trump "is not likely to be much help in rallying women to support Republicans in the upcoming midterm elections," as Gallup's Megan Brenan wrote this week.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Danielle Kurtzleben is a political reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.
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