Women were supposed to carry Hillary Clinton to victory, buoyed by a swing left among those who typically vote Republican – at least, that’s what the experts said. That was, of course, before the bulk of national polls turned out to be wrong and Americans elected Donald Trump.
One mainstream prediction, however, held true: 2016 brought the largest voting gender gap in the half-century history of exit polls.
Clinton won women on Tuesday by 12 points and lost men by 12 points: a total 24 point gap. The 2012 election previously held this record with a 20-point chasm, when President Obama won women by 12 points and lost men by eight.
The gender gap widened this year for the same reason Trump took the White House: Men, especially white men, surged right.
Four years ago, the male electorate favored Mitt Romney by 7 points. On Tuesday, they picked Trump by 12.
The shifts were particularly apparent among white voters. In 2012, white women favored Romney by 14 points. Their turnout for the GOP candidate was weaker this year – 10 points, according to the U.S. General Exit Poll.
White men, meanwhile, expanded their move to the right. Four years ago, they favored Romney by 27 points. Exit polls show they favored the GOP candidate by 32 points.
Trump didn’t make gains among male voters of color, but he didn’t lose the support Romney received, either: 13 percent of black men and 32 percent of Hispanic men backed him on Tuesday, while 11 percent of black men and a third of Hispanic men voted Republican in 2012.
Clinton, however, didn’t see the minority support from voters of either gender that Obama pulled off in the last election.
Women, in general, have voted more Democratic than men since 1980. Women of color have propelled that support – 96 percent of black women and 76 percent of Hispanic women backed Obama in 2012, and they turned out for Clinton in slightly smaller numbers on Tuesday. (Men of color typically back Democrats, as well, and they didn’t break that trend this year.)
White women, on the other hand, typically favor Republicans. Those with college degrees, however, posted modest margins for Democrats in 1996, 2000 and 2008. Clinton won them Tuesday by six points, a small wing that highlights the educational and ideological divide among white Americans.
Whites with college degrees are more likely to lean left than their counterparts who completed no higher education. That pattern held true Tuesday and largely delivered Trump the victory. As The Washington Post’s Jim Tankersley points out, whites without a college degree made up a third of the 2016 electorate. Trump won them by 39 percentage points, the exit polls show, vastly showing up Romney’s 25 percent margin.
“They were the foundation of his victories across the Rust Belt, including a blowout win in Ohio and stunning upsets in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin,” Tankersley wrote. “In polling, these voters have expressed deep racial and cultural anxieties.”
They were also more likely than the broader population to say undocumented immigrants should be forced out of the country. They also reported to pollsters that economic concerns – their earnings hasn’t budged much in years – and a distrust in Washington leaders brought them to Trump.
A staggering 72 percent of white men without college degrees chose the Republican candidate, while 62 percent of their female counterparts did the same.
What remains to be explored is why women didn’t rush to support Clinton when more than a year of polling suggested they would. Across age, race and income, their voting patterns stayed relatively consistent as men’s dramatically shifted.