It’s harder to pinpoint exactly why the gender gap shrunk from 2016 to 2020, but Pew’s numbers point to a couple of possible explanations, particularly the influence that educational attainment has on vote choice. Consider Biden’s improvement among college-educated men. He won 58 percent of this group, a giant leap from Clinton’s 49 percent in 2016. And his performance among college-educated men marked a 10-point advantage over how he did among men overall. Conversely for Trump, his gains among women were largely concentrated among those without a four-year college degree. His support among that group grew from 43 percent in 2016 to 50 percent in 2020. Taken together, this reflects the recent trend of Americans with higher education levels shifting toward the Democrats, and less-well-educated Americans moving toward the GOP.
This shift was especially notable among white voters,2 as educational attainment has tended to be a larger cleavage for them than for other racial or ethnic groups. Biden won 54 percent of white men with a college degree, up from Clinton’s 47 percent in 2016, while white women without a four-year degree moved in the other direction, as Trump’s support grew to 64 percent, up from 56 percent in 2016.