A big gap is opening up on both sides of the Atlantic between men and women over their support for the incumbent political leaders. Both Bush and Blair are supported more by men than women and in recent months this trend has become more pronounced.
A BBC report this week quoted Deborah Mattinson, Opinion Leader Research as saying that many older female voters were disillusioned with the political process and the Labour government in particular.
“Back in 1997 it was basically the older women who won it for Labour,” she told Today. “I think that this spells a potential difficulty ahead for the government because it’s quite clear that women are much less enchanted by the government currently than men are.
The electoral significance of this is magnified because UK women 4% are more likely to vote than men and 35-64 age group is 18% more likely to vote than those below.
This trend is echoed in the US where the pollster Zogby International regularly publishes a gender breakdown. This is the latest:-
Men:- Bush 49% : Kerry 44%
Women:- Bush 39% : Kerry 50%
What’s even more remarkable is that the difference between the sexes in their attidude to Bush is wider than ever. Kerry’s figure tops 50% with women and the Bush total is the first time he’s been below 40%. Just a month ago the male-female margin between Bush and Kerry was just one per cent.
In the UK the question “Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the job Tony Blair is doing as prime minister?” in the April ICM for the Guardian has the following gender split:-
Satisfied:- Male 41% : Female 34%
Dissatisfied:- Male 56%: Female 59%
Just like in the US the male-female gap has got larger in recent months and it seems to be widening with each poll. Much of this might be due to the Iraq war where male support in both countries has been higher amongst men than women. As things have got worse in Iraq in recent weeks the polls have shown less female support for the leaders.
But in the UK the disillusionment amongst women with Tony Blair has not translated itself into a switch to the Tories.
The same ICM poll had Labour 5% ahead of the Tories – the biggest lead for months. This might change in the coming months when the campaign to win the support of women, particularly those in the older age groups who have much higher turnout rates, looks set to be the battle-ground where the next General Election will be won or lost.
Illustration – US Postal Service