The gender gap remains a prominent fixture in this election cycle and the recent Republican National Convention highlighted what some interpreted as the Romney campaign’s attempt to address the issue. Yet, it is not clear how such a gap will play out in the calculus of turning out to vote, and thus the implication for such a gap in narrow margin swing states, such as Colorado, remains uncertain. What is apparent is that the traditional gender preference differences seem to hold in such states, and a recent set of polls reveal that the gap in Colorado is about 8 percent (51 percent of men favor Romney versus 43% of women). This gap between men and women is essentially the same as four years ago. But how does the gender gap play out among one of the most important demographic groups in Colorado? In this post, the Latino/Latina gender gap is examined with an eye on its implication for Colorado’s Presidential election.
According to results from Latino Decisions’ June Battleground State poll, a Latino-Latina gap is quite evident in the state of Colorado. Figures 1 and 2 illustrate the gap in President Obama’s job approval ratings and potential support for his re-election in November. In terms of overall job approval, which includes those that strongly and somewhat approve of the job Barack Obama is doing as President, 69 percent of Colorado Latinos approve of Obama compared to about 76 percent of Colorado Latinas. This seven point gap is in line with the national figures, but is not, however, a statistically significant difference.
The gap between Latinos and Latinas in Colorado is much wider when we look at vote choice, where a statistically significant difference emerges. Figure 2 presents the breakdown of those who are leaning toward and certain to vote for Romney versus Obama. The gender gap in candidate preference is quite large, about 15 percentage points, with just under 80 percent of Latinas supporting Obama compared to about 65 percent of Latinos in Colorado. The gender gap in presidential preference is thus about twice as large among Latinos as the gender gap in the national electorate.
The gender gap regarding vote choice and candidate favorability among Latinos persists to some extent in terms of immigration policy and views of the Obama Administration’s handling of immigration. A majority of both Latino males and females support an immigration policy that includes a path to earned citizenship, with 54 percent and 67 percent, respectively, preferring earned citizenship to a guest worker program or simply sending all undocumented immigrants to their home countries (see Figure 3). However, the gap of approximately 13 percentage points clearly shows some diverging policy preferences among Latinos in Colorado. Given the general lack of movement in immigration policy (one way or another) it is not surprising that this larger gap in policy preferences is not reflected in general approval of the Obama Administration’s handling of immigration policy. Figure 4 shows that both Latinos and Latinas are fairly even in their approval, but a slightly larger share of men disapprove of the President’s immigration policy than women.
How might this Latino-Latina gender gap play out in terms of Colorado’s Presidential election? Latinos as a group could play a major role in the outcome provided Latino turnout approaches that of 2008. There will need to be a high degree of enthusiasm among Latino voters to reach the turnout numbers of 2008. Recent Latino Decisions data allows for a comparison of enthusiasm between Latino men and women specific to immigration policy. Figure 5 presents the gender breakdown for Colorado Latinos/as reaction to the Obama Administration’s DHS policy to stop deportation of any undocumented immigrant youth who attend college or serve in the military and provides them with legal, renewable work permits. Respondents were asked if they were more or less enthusiastic about President Obama given this recent policy announcement. Once again a gender gap emerges, with over half (54 percent) of Latinas indicating they were more enthusiastic after the policy change compared to 43 percent of Latinos. Conversely, almost twice the percent of Latino men (16.5 percent) versus women (8.5 percent) were less enthusiastic after the announcement. This gender based enthusiasm gap reasonably follows Latinas’ preferences for more open immigration policy.
While immigration policy reinforces the Latino/a gender gap, there is some evidence that general enthusiasm for voting in the 2012 election among Latinos and Latinas may not play to Obama’s favor in Colorado. When respondents were asked if they were more enthusiastic about voting in the 2012 election compared to the 2008 election, 53 percent of Latinos compared to only 40 percent of Latinas were more enthusiastic for the upcoming election relative to four years ago (see Figure 6). In contrast, Latino women were about twice as likely (36 percent) to report that they were more enthusiastic four years ago than men (17 percent). It seems that even with the general boost in enthusiasm from Obama’s immigration policy, Latinas are less enthused about voting in the upcoming election compared to Latinos.
What does all of this mean for Obama’s prospects in Colorado in November? First, the gender gap is nothing new and while the Latino/a gap data from 2008 is not discussed here, it was likely present in that election as well. If the gender differences we find here persist to Election Day, it may come down to enthusiasm and turnout differentials. Nevertheless, even if Latino men turn out at much higher rates than women to a point that Latino group support reflected only Latino male support, Obama would still capture about 65 percent of the Latino vote in Colorado. Given that a higher level of support is more likely, the impact of this gender gap among Latinos in Colorado may be negligible given overall levels of support among Latinos. Nevertheless, in battle-ground states like Colorado, small demographic differences matter, and if enthusiasm continues to wane among those most supportive of the Administration, the Romney campaign would certainly be the beneficiary.
Robert R. Preuhs is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Metropolitan State University of Denver. He has published numerous articles on state politics and minority representation. His most recent article, co-authored with Eric Gonzalez Juenke, “Irreplaceable Legislators? Rethinking Minority Representatives in the New Century” appears in The American Journal of Political Science.
The commentary of this article reflects the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Latino Decisions. Latino Decisions and Pacific Market Research, LLC make no representations about the accuracy of the content of the article.