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Gender gap continues to widen in presidential politics

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 Women continued to show their support for President Barack Obama in the Nov. 6 general election while more men showed their support for GOP nominee Mitt Romney, Gallup found.

Gallup has measured how American men and women cast their votes in presidential elections dating back to 1952. However, the gender gap measured in the 2012 election is the largest the organization has measured. Obama won among women by a 12-point margin, 56 percent to 44 percent, while Romney won among men by an 8-point margin, 54 percent to 46 percent.

"That total 20-point gender gap is the largest Gallup has measured in a presidential election since it began compiling the vote by major subgroups in 1952," according to Gallup's report.

Obama's 12-point margin of victory among women is slightly less than the 14-point margin he had over Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in the 2008 election. Romney improved on McCain's performance among men by eight points, narrowing Obama's winning margin between the two elections from seven points to two points. Gallup accredited that change to the trend of men shifting more Republican.

Gallup has based historical estimates of the gender gap on its final pre-election estimate of the major candidate vote for each election, with results adjusted as necessary to correct any difference between Gallup's pre-election estimate of the vote and the actual election results. In the 2012 cycle, Gallup's final unallocated estimate of the vote based on Nov. 1-4 tracking data, showed Obama favored by 48 percent of likely voters and Romney by 49 percent.  For this analysis, according to Gallup's report, Obama's support among men and women was weighed upward slightly to match his actual 50 percent support in the election and Romney's was weighed downward to match his 48 percent support.

The gender gap has been evident in presidential politics since 1952, according to Gallup, but was somewhat muted in elections between 1960 and 1972, averaging four points. Two of those elections, 1964 and 1972, were landslide victories for incumbent presidents, Gallup noted, and the other two elections were highly competitive.

Before 2012, the largest gender gap in Gallup polling history was 18 points in the 1984 election, which saw incumbent Republican Ronald Reagan win his second term in office. Majorities of both men and women supported Reagan in that election, but he won men by 28 points and won among women by only 10 points. Geraldine Ferraro was the first woman to appear on a major party's ticket – she was the Democratic nominee for vice president – and Gallup said it's unclear how Ferraro affected the vote of women that year.

Women tend to vote for Democratic presidents. The Democratic nominee has won the women vote in each of the last six elections. Men favored the Democrat in only two of those, 1992 and 1996, and in only four of the 16 elections since 1952, Gallup found.