Hot Button Topics: Gender Gap, National Security and Health Care

The gender gap has been a prominent theme in many of November’s pivotal Senate and congressional races. But among young voters, our poll finds a striking absence of a strong gender gap. Women 18 to 29 are more likely than men to call themselves Democrats, by a 44 to 41 percent margin. That is a much smaller gap than the nine-point gender gap in Democratic party registration for all age groups as reported by the Center for the American Woman in Politics and Rutgers University in April of 2014 – and the gender gap apparent in 2010 exit polls which found that young males supported Congressional Democrats by 12 points, whereas young women supported Democrats by 22. Today though, Obama’s approval rating is only slightly higher among 18- to 29- year-old women than men (45 percent for women, 41 percent for men).

On specific issues and the direction of Congress, there is not much variation between the sexes. Males and females 18 to 29 give the same or similar ratings to the president on every issue polled -- immigration, race relations, foreign policy, the economy, the deficit and health care. Attitudes toward the Affordable Care Act are also nearly the same. Asked who should control Congress, 48 percent of young males and 51 percent of young females said the Democrats, while 45 percent of men and 42 percent of women chose Republicans. On the question of whether the country is on the right track or wrong track, both sexes were pessimistic, and by similar margins.!

Women of this age group still tend to vote more Democratic, but their answers to questions on specific issues suggest their outlooks are not significantly different – at least at this age – than those of their male counterparts. And any advantage Democrats do have among females 18 to 29 may be diminished by turnout: just 21 percent of young females say they definitely plan to vote in November, compared to 31 percent of males.

Perspective on Major Issues by Gender



On other issues in the news, we found:

  • ISIS. By nearly a two-to-one margin (39 percent to 20 percent), millennials approve of President Obama’s expansion of the US air campaign against ISIS. Importantly, an additional 38 percent don’t know – and 3 percent refused the question. Men are more likely than women to support the expanded strikes, by a 44 to 33 percent margin, but outright opposition to the campaign is similar, with 19 percent of men and 21 percent of women opposing the strategy.
  • Terrorism. 61 percent of millennials say they are “a great deal” or “somewhat” worried about another terrorist attack. Women, by a 66 to 56 percent margin, are more concerned about it than men. Among ethnic and racial lines, Hispanics were most worried, with 66 percent fearing another attack, compared to 61 percent of whites and 54 percent of African-Americans. Republicans (73 percent) are more concerned about an attack than Democrats (62 percent). Among college students, 57 percent report that they are concerned, which is 16 points lower than the number of college students who shared similar concerns in our 2001 poll taken in the aftermath of 9/11.
  • Health care. The Affordable Care Act is polling at about the same rate that it was in November 2013 around the time that the website was launched, with 57 percent disapproving, and 39 percent approving of the health care law. But a closer look at the numbers shows that attitudes toward the president’s signature law correlate with attitudes toward Obama himself. There is a vast difference of opinion along racial and ethnic lines. African-American millennials overwhelmingly back the president’s signature heath care law, with 68 percent approving of the ACA. Among Hispanics, support is 41 percent, and among whites, the ACA draws a 31 percent approval rating. Democrats are also far more likely to support the law, with 66 percent approving, than are Republicans, only 7 percent of whom like the ACA. Among independents, support is at 36 percent.


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