- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 16, 2005

It’s possible we’re seeing the beginnings of a new gender gap forming in the American electorate. This says a lot about how political parties talk about issues and how that discussion is received by voters.

Republicans are gaining ground among men as the party most trusted on health care, an issue where voters traditionally favor Democrats. While Democrats still hold a comfortable advantage on the issue among women, men have been trending decidedly more Republican since around the GOP convention in August, according to the American Survey, which tracked the issue throughout 2004.

Republicans and President Bush talking up traditionally Democratic-dominated issues like Medicare prescription-drug benefits isprobably part of the explanation. But another reason could be Republican emphasis over the past year on health-care positions popular with men, likelimiting frivolous lawsuits and enacting malpracticereform, as ways to reducethe costs of health care.

Chart 1, from our Decembersnapshot survey of 800 registered voters,demonstrates a health-caregender gapofsorts, with men trustingRepublicans more on theissueof health care by 6 percent, and women favoring the Democrats by an 18-percent margin, for a total net difference of 24 percent.

But has this always been the case? As Chart 2 demonstrates, Republicans have been gaining ground with men over the last three months, moving from a 19-percent deficit on the issue of “who do you trust most on health care?” to a six-point advantage in our December survey. Democrats, as the same chart shows, have held a fairly constant lead on the issue among women.

Chart 3 provides a possible reason for the GOP gains amongmen.Menand women are almost mirrorimages of one another on the question of the “most important health care issue to be addressed.” Women lean more toward expanding coverage to those without insurance, while men favor limiting excessive or frivolous lawsuits by about the same margin.

Whether this health-care gender gap will continue or broaden is unclear. But Republican efforts to link liability reform with health care are producing positive political consequences with at least half of the electorate.

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