Gender gaps in voting were evident in all seven 2012 gubernatorial races where exit polls were conducted by Edison Research, according to an analysis by the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), a unit of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Gender gaps – defined as measurable differences in the proportions of women and men who voted for the winning candidates – ranged from 3 to 11 points in these races (see table below).
The largest gender gap was in New Hampshire, where the sole female gubernatorial candidate this year, Democrat Maggie Hassan, defeated Republican Ovide Lamontagne. Women were 11 percentage points more likely than men to vote for Hassan, while men favored Hassan over her opponent by only one percentage point.
Women voters preferred the Democratic candidates over the Republican candidates in six of the seven gubernatorial contests. The lone exception was the North Carolina race, in which a majority of women (and an even larger majority of men) voted for the winning Republican candidate.
Women’s votes were responsible for Democratic victories in three states. In Indiana and Montana, majorities of women voted for the winning Democratic candidates while majorities of men voted for the losing Republican candidates. In the highly-competitive contest in Washington, women preferred the victorious Democrat Jay Inslee, while men’s votes were evenly split between Inslee and Republican Rob McKenna.
In addition to the gender gaps in gubernatorial contests, gender gaps also were evident in the 2012 presidential race (10 percentage points) and in 22 of the 23 U.S. Senate contests (5 to 13 percentage points) where exit polls were conducted. Only 11 gubernatorial seats were up for election this year; 36 seats will be contested in 2014.