The Massive Gender Gap in Gov’s Race
Walker does terrible with women. But Burke does far worse with men. Why?
We already know Wisconsin is most partisan, most politically divided state in America. But the latest Marquette University Law School poll suggests we have an equally colossal gender gap. The race may come down to one simple factor: which sex gets to the polls.
The latest Marquette poll shows that among likely voters, men prefer the male candidate, incumbent Gov. Scott Walker, by 62 percent to 34 percent for Burke. That’s a stunning margin. Women voters meanwhile prefer the female challenger, Mary Burke by 54 percent to 40 percent. This might make for some tense dinner table conversations between husbands and wives. Still, when MU pollster Charles Franklin looked at single versus married women, in a July poll, he found Walker’s gender gap was largely among single, divorced or widowed women.
Franklin calls the current current Walker advantage among men “quite large,” but cautions “it may not hold through election day. Gender gaps bounce around quite a bit.”
He points to the 2012 race for U.S. Senate between Democrat Tammy Baldwin and Republican Tommy Thompson, where Thompson’s edge with men ranged from +25 percent to -2 percent and everywhere in between, while Baldwin’s edge with women ranged from +1 percent to +17 percent.
Still, as Franklin notes, exit polling after the election showed Thompson had a five point advantage with men and Baldwin had a 15 point advantage with women. Similarly, presidential victor Barack Obama had a significant advantage with women voters in Wisconsin.
Why the huge bump in that number this time around? The charge that Burke plagiarized language in her jobs plan may be one reason. On its face, the issue seems like very small potatoes. Buzzfeed quoted four paragraphs lifted from other jobs plans in Burke’s 49 page plan, but it was all the sort of stuff you might find in any such plan. Moreover, Burke campaign consultant, Eric Schnurer, was largely quoting himself from other job plans he’s prepared.
But the media jumped all over it and the Burke campaign, instead of dismissing the whole thing as unimportant, fired Schnurer. Burke, when asked to define plagiarism (a classic gotcha ploy by Fox 6), looked like a deer in the headlights, stammering a barely intelligible answer. The footage provided a perfect attack ad for Walker’s campaign, which you can find here, along with a Burke ad responding.
The latest MU poll found 54 percent of registered voters said they had read or heard about the jobs plan controversy, and 18 percent said it made them less likely to vote for her.
Does the issue have legs? I’d guess not, because other issues will soon supplant it. But it’s certainly provided the best attack ad to date for Walker in this campaign. His attack on her and the Trek company was a huge mistake. Meanwhile, Burke’s team had run the strongest ads, including one attacking the governor with the tagline “Scott Walker’s not working for you” and the ad comparing Walker negatively to Ronald Reagan.
I think the strength of Burke’s ads help explain why she closed the gap on Walker and was in a dead heat for four months. But Walker’s team has gone back to basics, with powerful ads claiming he helped the state make a dramatic comeback and touting the impact of his tax cuts. The result can be seen in yesterday’s poll showing a five-point margin for Walker, suggesting the momentum of the race has shifted his way, though it’s still, with margin of error considered, a statistical tie.
By contrast the MU polls have consistently shown voters are more likely to see Walker as someone “able to get things done.” In the latest poll, 62 percent said this about Walker and just 40 percent said it describes Burke.
What made Burke such a potentially potent candidate is that she is a businesswoman and philanthropist, someone who could combine caring about you with getting things done. For the Walker campaign, nothing is more important than chipping away at her business background, which is why the Buzzfeed story on her jobs plan was such a godsend.
For Burke the numbers continue to point one way: she needs a big turnout from women, particularly single women, or she can’t win the election. The gender gap will decide who is Wisconsin’s next governor.