- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 4, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

With its shattering of old-school political rules, the dominance of colorful personalities and the raging desire to smash the establishment status quo, the 2016 campaign has been wild. And yet, not everyone is paying as close attention to the race as might be expected. Women, in particular, apparently have better things to do.

According to a new Gallup survey, many women just aren’t into the presidential race — or at least not as much as they used to be.

Gallup reports, “Men over the last two months have been paying significantly more attention to news about the 2016 presidential election than are women. In April, 44 percent of men say they are following election news very closely, compared with 31 percent of women. This 13-percentage-point gap has expanded from previous months, particularly February, when the gap was a narrow two points.”

What’s interesting is that the trend cuts across both parties. Even more interesting, Democrat women are less likely to be following the contest than Republican women.

“An aggregated analysis of March and April responses shows that Republican men are eight points more likely than Republican women to be following the election very closely, while Democratic men are 11 points more likely than Democratic women,” according to Gallup. ” ‘Pure’ independents — those who do not lean to either party — are following the news less closely than those in either party, regardless of gender, as would be expected. But even with overall lower levels of interest, independent men are significantly more likely than independent women to say they are following the news very closely.”

The result also cuts across demographics such as age and education level, so it’s not a fluke.

Women are tuning out. But why?

With Hillary Clinton closing in on the nomination, women would be expected to be more energized about paying attention, not less. That they are not should worry her, because a disengaged female voting bloc would prove disastrous for her campaign. Women may support her in droves anyway. But since the finding is so widespread, she ought to concern herself with the possible reasons for it:

First, primary fatigue: Many women may be just more likely to get burned out on the day-to-day campaign coverage. Second, many women may have come to an early conclusion that the inevitable nominees will be Donald Trump and Mrs. Clinton, so they’re less interested in the horse race. Third, Mr. Trump has dominated media coverage, and his support tends to skew male.

Both sides, however, have their work cut out for them. v

Mr. Trump has won among women in the majority of Republican primary contests, but the general electorate is a different ball of wax, and there, he’s got work to do. In most polls, he earns favorable ratings among women of about 20-25 percent, with his unfavorable nearly 70 percent.

Women tend to vote Democratic anyway, so any Republican candidate running against a woman would face a tough road. The gender gap for Mr. Trump is even wider than usual, in part due to his previous broadsides against women like Heidi Cruz and Fox News’ Megyn Kelly.

Because he’s not a traditional politician, however, he may have more of a “grace zone” with voters, enabling him to turn those numbers around. He can start by making clear that every issue is a women’s issue: a growing economy, individual and economic freedom, national security. Moving toward broader themes that resonate with all voters will encourage women to give him another look.

Mrs. Clinton has her own “women’s problem”: she’s only 10 points behind Mr. Trump in unfavorability among women, at nearly 60 percent. Amazingly, in a recent National Review poll, “Hillary’s unfavorable rating was two points higher among women than it was among men.”

Her sky-high negatives among women also cut across the demographic spectrum, from race (except for black women, who still overwhelmingly support her), age, income and education level to every region of the country.

Mrs. Clinton has been on the national scene for 30 years, so she can’t claim voter unfamiliarity. Women know her, and that’s the problem. They may not like Mr. Trump, but they don’t like her, either. In order to win, she must inspire energetic enthusiasm among this core group, and instead, she’s got them shrugging.

Mr. Trump, however, appears to have far more running room to improve his standing with women. And he’s wholly unafraid to attack her desperate use of gender as political weapon.

“I think the only card she has is the women’s card,” he has said. “She has got nothing else going. Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she would get 5 percent of the vote.”

That’s going to leave a mark. And it’s just the beginning.

Monica Crowley is editor of online opinion at The Washington Times.

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