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

The impact of gender on voter turnout

Senior Mexican Woman Voting

adamkaz / Getty Images

Women don't take anything for granted, including the right to vote. Although women in America have had that right for less than a century, they exercise it in much greater numbers and greater percentages than their male counterparts.

By the Numbers: Women vs. Men at the Polls

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 the previous Presidential election years, including and prior to 2016, the numbers bear out the point. Of the total voting-age population:

  • In 2016, 63.3% of women and 59.3% of men voted. That's 73.7 million women and 63.8 million men—a difference of 9.9 million votes.
  • In 2012, 63.7% of women and 59.8% of men voted. That's 71.4 million women and 61.6 million men—a difference of 9.8 million votes.
  • In 2008, 65.6% of women and 61.5% of men voted. That's 70.4 million women and 60.7 million men—a difference of 9.7 million votes.
  • 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 votes.
  • 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 votes.
  • 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 votes.

Compare these figures to a couple of generations 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 votes.

The Impact of Age on Voter Turnout by Gender

Among citizens ages 18 to 64, a higher proportion of women than men voted in 2016, 2012, 2008, 2004, 2000 and 1996; the pattern is reversed among older voters (65 and up). For both genders, the older the voter, the greater the turnout, at least through the age of 74. In 2016, of the total voting-age populations:

  • 46% of women and 40% of men 18 to 24 years old voted
  • 59.7% of women and 53% of men 25 to 44 years old voted
  • 68.2% of women and 64.9% of men 45 to 64 years old voted
  • 72.5% of women and 72.8% of men 65 to 74 years old voted

The numbers shift for voters 75 years and up, with 66% of women versus 71.6% of men voting, however, older voters routinely continue to outpace younger voters.

The Impact of Ethnicity on Voter Turnout by Gender

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 2016, of the total voting-age population, the following percentages were reported for each group:

  • Asian/Pacific Islander—48.4% of women and 49.7 % of men voted
  • African American—63.7% of women and 54.2% of men voted
  • Hispanic—50% of women and 45% of men voted
  • White/non-Hispanic—66.8% of women and 63.7% of men voted

In non-presidential election years, women continue to turn out in greater proportions than men. Women outnumber men in terms of voter registration as well: In 2016, 81.3 million women were registered to vote, while only 71.7 million men reported being registered voters, a difference of 9.6 million voters.

The Importance of the Women's Vote

So the next time you hear political pundits discussing "the women's vote," bear in mind they're referring to a powerful constituency that numbers in the millions. As more and more female candidates forge their way onto local and national platforms, women's voices and gender-inclusive agendas are increasingly coming to the fore. In the days ahead, it may well be the votes of women, individually and collectively, that make or break the outcomes of future elections.