Growing Chasm: How Men and Women are Voting


When it comes to voting, there are reasons to believe what author John Gray told us in the ’90s: Men are from Mars; Women are from Venus. The gender gap has been growing in recent elections. It’s most apparent when it comes to Generation Z, this year’s 18-29 year-olds.

Gen Z played a significant role in Joe Biden’s win over Donald Trump. The young voters constituted 20 percent of the 2020 vote and chose Biden, 60-36 percent. And while it looks as if those numbers may be somewhat reduced in 2024, younger voters will continue to play a role despite differences between genders.

Women voters typically identify with the Democratic Party — 55-29 percent in 2012, trending upwards to 60 percent in recent elections. Meanwhile male voters identifying as Democrats fell 9 points in 2012 and 5 points in 2023. This gender difference, say pollsters, grows more noticeable with Gen Z voters.

What explains this deepening gap between young women and young men? There are multiple theories, almost as many as there are pollsters and psychologists. Pollster Celinda Lake says that for Gen Z women voters, the most important issues are abortion and birth control, followed by a candidate’s respect for women and willingness to work on women’s issues. Lake believes younger men, especially those lacking college degrees, are feeling left behind and are harboring a sense of grievance.

The New York Times/Sienna poll asked voters how much they think Donald Trump respects women. Some 54 percent of male voters think Trump does show respect – 23 percent say “a lot,” while 31 percent allow “some.” But women voters believe differently — 68 percent say Trump doesn’t care. That breaks down to 24 percent who say he cares “not much” and 44 percent saying “not at all.”

The Harvard Youth Poll taken in March showed 54 percent of those Gen Zers are likely to vote – 50 percent for Biden and 37 percent for Trump. With young women, Biden leads by 33 points, while Biden’s lead with young men shrinks to only 6 points. However, there is an  enthusiasm gap: 76 percent of Trump’s young voters are enthusiastic while only 44 percent of Biden’s voters are.

One factor contributing to the Gen Z gender gap is that fewer young men than women are seeking college degrees. Young men who forgo college tend to be conservative. They see feminism as being less about equality for women as a movement against men. They complain society is punishing men for acting like men.

One can see this ideological mismatch in incidents like the recent one at Benedictine College, a Catholic liberal arts school in Atkinson, Kansas. Speaking at the Benedictine commencement, Kansas City Chief’s Harrison Butker, 28, went on a rant loaded with homophobic and misogynist rhetoric. Butker told graduates that a woman’s title should be “homemaker.” Crediting his wife Isabelle, he said he’d wager young women are most excited about “marriage and children.” That dovetails with Trump’s role in defining conservative as a masculine ideology and with stoking grievances toward feminism and liberals.

One of the most significant influences on Gen Z young women was the #MeToo movement which emerged as they were entering adulthood. The movement pushed women left, at the same time that the Supreme Court was overturning Roe v. Wade and many states were stripping women of reproductive rights. If the young women had liberal leanings, this only magnified them.

Gen Z young women are not alone in their leftward move. An older set of women – Baby Boomers and Millennial women among them – are beginning to move left. Certain to affect both the Gen Z vote and the electorate at large are ballot measures on abortion that may be at issue in several states this November. When these measures have been included on state ballots – even in states with large conservative majorities – they not only drive turn-out but have all been decided in favor of abortion rights.

Along with abortion rights and economic concerns, Gen Z voters of both genders maintain a keen interest in an Israeli-Hamas ceasefire. While campus unrest may weaken in coming months, young voters’ concern won’t soon be forgotten. If he wants to retain his Gen Z pivotal vote, Biden will need to work more vigorously towards a conclusion to Gaza hostilities. This nation’s young men and young women may hail from different planets and they may differ in their voting patterns, but there still are issues that unite them.

Jean Godden
Jean Godden
Jean Godden wrote columns first for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and late for the Seattle Times. In 2002, she quit to run for City Council where she served for 12 years. Since then she published a book of city stories titled “Citizen Jean.” She is now co-host of The Bridge aired on community station KMGP at 101.1 FM. You can email tips and comments to Jean at


  1. One thing that caught my attention in that Harvard youth poll was their ranking of issues–they created a list of 16 currently salient political issues and tested each of them against each of the others: “Which is more important to you, Women’s Reproductive Health or Student Loan Reduction?* And so forth. Inflation was easily the most important< winning 65% of its matches. Israel-Gaza was next-to-last in importance importance, winning only 32% of its matches. This suggests that even though younger voters differ sharply from older voters on this topic, it's unlikely to influence how they vote.

    • Inflation was the most important issue to those sampled? Thank you for mentioning that. People might consider what a Trump election, and his pledge to slap a 10 percent tariff on all imports from China, will do for inflation. Hint: It will send it through the roof. Democrats will be committing election malpractice if they do not hit this issue and hit it hard, for candidates up and down the ticket.


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