Who's More Likely to Vote: Women or Men?

Gender Differences and Voter Turnout

Senior Mexican Woman Voting

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Women don't take anything for granted, including the right to vote. Although we've had that right for less than a century, we exercise it in much greater numbers and greater percentages than men. According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, there are clear gender differences in voter turnout:

In recent elections, voter turnout rates for women have equaled or exceeded voter turnout rates for men. Women, who constitute more than half the population, have cast between four and seven million more votes than men in recent elections. In every presidential election since 1980, the proportion [of] female adults who voted has exceeded the proportion of made adults who voted.

In examining previous presidential election years prior to 2008, the numbers make this point clear. Of the total voting age population:

  • In 2004, 60.1% of women and 56.3% of men voted.
    That's 67.3 million women and 58.5 million men - a difference of 8.8 million.
  • In 2000, 56.2% of women and 53.1% of men voted.
    That's 59.3 million women and 51.5 million men - a difference of 7.8 million.
  • In 1996, 55.5% of women and 52.8% of men voted.
    That's 56.1 million women and 48.9 million men - a difference of 7.2 million.

Compare these figures to a generation ago:

  • In 1964, 67% of women and 71.9% of men voted.
    That's 39.2 million women and 37.5 million men - a difference of 1.7 million.

For both genders, the older the voter, the greater the turnout up through age 74. In 2004, of the total voting age populations:

  • 44.9% of women and 38.8% of men 18-24 years old voted
  • 55% of women and 48.8% of men 25-44 years old voted
  • 68.3% of women and 65.9% of men 45-64 years old voted
  • 69.4% of women and 72.5% of men 65-74 years old voted

The numbers drop slightly for voters 75 years and up - 63.9% of women and 71% of men voted - but still significantly outstrip young voters.

The Center for American Women and Politics also notes that this gender difference holds true across all races and ethnicities with one exception:

Among Asians/Pacific Islanders, Blacks, Hispanics, and Whites, the number of female voters in recent elections has exceeded the number of male voters. While the difference in voter turnout rates between the sexes is greatest for Blacks, women have voted at higher rates than men among Blacks, Hispanics, and Whites in the last five presidential elections; in 2000, the first year for which data are available, Asian/Pacific Islander men voted at a slightly higher rate than Asian/Pacific Islander women.

In 2004, of the total voting age population, the following percentages were reported for each group:

  • Asian/Pacific Islander - 30.5% of women and 29% of men voted
  • Black - 59.8% of women and 51.8% of men voted
  • Hispanic - 30.9% of women and 25.2% of men voted
  • White - 62% of women and 58.6% of men voted

In non-presidential election years, women continue to turn out in greater proportions than men. And women outnumber men among registered voters. In 2004, 75.6 million women and 66.4 million men reported they were registered voters, a difference of 9.2 million.

So the next time you hear a political analyst discuss 'the women's vote,' bear in mind that she or he is talking about a powerful constituency that numbers in the millions. Though it has yet to find its political voice and agenda, the vote of women, individually and collectively, can make or break elections, candidates, and outcomes.