Last week, the left engaged in a familiar moment of circular, self-reinforcing congratulations over a collective misreading of a new Pew poll. That survey found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that Democrats were most excited to see a woman occupy the Oval Office within their lifetimes. Independents were slightly less thrilled about the prospect and the vast majority of Republicans were utterly unmoved. Many on the left ignored the wording of this poll, which asked voters whether they cared or didn’t care about the gender of the figure that would receive their vote in 2016, and decided that Republicans were openly hostile toward women in positions of authority. Never let reading comprehension get in the way of an opportunity for moral preening.
Well, an ABC News-Washington Post survey released on Thursday finds that Republicans are in great company. Only 24 percent of respondents told pollsters Clinton’s gender made it “more likely” that they would support her campaign for president (a figure that I wouldn’t be shocked to find was inflated by social desirability bias). 65 percent of all other Americans said that they do not regard accidents of birth like a person’s gender to be their defining characteristics.
Only 8 percent of Republicans said Clinton’s gender made it more likely that they would vote for her for president while 67 percent said it made no difference to them. A rather sizable 24 percent said that Clinton’s gender made it less likely that they would vote for her for president, but it’s likely that this set of respondents are just emphatically expressing their disdain for Clinton personally (how many of these self-identified Republicans cast a vote for McCain/Palin in 2008?).
The results are similar for independents. Only 21 percent say that Clinton’s gender is a factor making their vote more likely while 69 percent say it makes no difference. Even a majority of Democrats do not see Clinton’s genitalia as one of her most electable traits. While a whopping 40 percent said Clinton’s status as a woman makes it more likely they would vote for her in 2016, 57 percent said it didn’t matter to them.
That’s where the good news for the country ends in this survey. While divisive identity politics might be losing its appeal among liberals, Clinton’s influence over the national electorate remains strong. In head-to-head matchups against a variety of prospective Republican candidates, Clinton enjoys double-digit leads.
Clinton approaches the nominating season in a dominant position, leading Bush by 54 percent to 41 percent among registered voters and Romney by 55 percent to 40 percent.
Beyond Bush and Romney — the two Republicans who have made the firmest moves toward a 2016 run — Clinton holds equally large leads over other potential Republican hopefuls. She tops Rand Paul and Chris Christie by 13 percentage points each, and leads Mike Huckabee by 17 points.
Clinton’s advantages over Republican hopefuls are greater among both male and female voters in the new poll. Female voters favor Clinton by 20 to 24 points while men split more closely, although no Republican has a numerical advantage among this group. Romney won male voters by 52 percent to 45 percent over Obama, according to 2012 exit polls. Clinton edges Romney by 50 percent to 46 percent among male voters in the new poll. Clinton’s 59 percent to 36 percent lead over Romney among female voters is bigger than Obama’s 55 percent to 44 percent over Romney in 2012.
So, maybe the 2016 campaign won’t mirror the fractious, scorched earth contest that the 2012 race became, and the public will actually debate the issues and the merits of each candidate rather than litigating their varying and subjective levels of veiled prejudice. But, at least for now, it doesn’t seem like that welcome condition will hurt Clinton’s electoral prospects one bit.