The gender gap in the 2012 presidential election was the largest since Gallup began tracking the metric in 1952, according to data released by the polling firm on Friday.
President Obama won women by 12 percentage points, while Mitt Romney won men by 8. That’s a 20-point gender gap, edging out the 1984 election when Ronald Reagan defeated Democrat Walter Mondale in a landslide.
Reagan won both men and women in that election, but carried men by 28 points and women by only 10 – a disparity of 18 points.
2012 was the fifth straight election to feature a double-digit gender gap.
Still, Romney performed better among women than Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCain20 years after 9/11, US foreign policy still struggles for balance What the chaos in Afghanistan can remind us about the importance of protecting democracy at home 'The View' plans series of conservative women as temporary McCain replacements MORE (R-Ariz.) did in 2008. Obama had a 14-point advantage among female voters over his GOP counterpart that year. Romney also outperformed McCain among men in this election – in 2008 Obama and McCain split the male vote.
The politics of gender played a significant role throughout the 2012 election, as Romney looked to cut into Obama’s advantage among female voters by framing the economy as a women’s issue.
The strategy worked for a while, as polls showed women flocking to the GOP challenger after his strong first debate performance. But Romney was unable to hold on to those gains in the final weeks of the campaign, and the Obama campaign relentlessly portrayed the GOP candidate as a throwback to the 1950s in his views on women's reproductive and pay equity issues.
Romney may also have been hurt by two Republican House candidates, former Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) and Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock. Both Senate candidates, who lost their election bids, made controversial comments about rape and abortion that reignited the Democratic line of attack from earlier in the cycle that the GOP is looking to “turn back the clock” on women’s issues.
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