The nomination of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court has sharpened divisions in American politics. Of all the contentious issues that have emerged during President Trump’s time in office, none has been as polarizing as the Kavanaugh nomination — at least along partisan lines, where a poll this week showed Republicans favoring his confirmation at almost the same rates as they approved of Trump’s job performance.
On gender lines, the differences on Kavanaugh have been less stark, a natural function of the fact that some women are Republicans and some men are Democrats. But most men are more supportive of Kavanaugh’s nomination than are most women.
On Friday, Gallup released new poll data showing that the antipathy women express toward Kavanaugh is reflected in their views toward the Supreme Court on the whole. While the percentage of Americans who approve of the Supreme Court has held fairly steady, the percentage of women who do has dropped to a point not seen since 2011. Among men, support for the court is near a high.
Generally, views of the court by gender have moved together. But in the new poll, the gap is 17 percentage points, the widest it has been in at least two decades.
At the same time, the gap between men and women on the generic ballot — which asks whom people plan to vote for in November, the Democrat or the Republican in their district — may make past House elections pale in comparison.
Consider the Washington Post-ABC poll released at the end of last month. It had men preferring the Democratic and Republican candidates about equally — and women giving the Democrat the edge by 25 points.
Exit polls suggest that the last time men preferred the Democrat to the Republican on Election Day was in 2008. It’s only happened three times since 1992.
That graph obscures how big the gap is among women. The biggest gap in exit polling was a 16-point edge among men in favor of the Republicans in 1994 and 2014. The gap in our most recent poll is almost 10 points bigger.
Looking just at support for the Democratic Party, the Post-ABC poll reflects a bigger split between men and women than at any point in the past 26 years of exit polls.
The margin in our poll will not precisely match the split on Election Day, of course. It’s not that our poll isn’t perfect (which it isn’t, naturally) but that levels of support will continue to shift over the next month and a half.
But it’s still worth comparing the net margin of support between the parties among men with the net margin among women. In our poll, men prefer the Democratic candidate by one point, and women prefer the Democrat by 25. That’s a 24-point difference between the genders. It’s wider than any recent gap shown in exit polling, though not by much.
What’s particularly remarkable about our poll is that the gap is 24 points even though men still prefer the Democrat. It’s easy to have a gap of 20 points in the margin when men prefer the Republicans by 10 points and women prefer the Democrats by 10 points. That’s not what’s happening here.
There’s probably overlap between support for Democrats among women and antipathy to the Supreme Court. Pew Research Center polling released this week shows that the Supreme Court is the issue that’s most important to voters, matching health care and the environment in importance among Democrats.
We’ve reached the stage of the election campaign when we generally note that there’s still a lot of time left before most votes are cast. So: There’s a lot of time left. But the figures solidify an idea that’s seemed more and more likely over the course of 2018.
The Democrats are going to do well, and women are going to be a primary factor in that success.