Influences of Gender and Age in the 2016 Presidential Election

April 3, 2018

By Chip Underhill

At the forefront of continuing analysis of the 2016 Presidential election, three professors at Saint Anselm College edited a book entitled, “Conventional Wisdom, Parties and Broken Barriers in the 2016 Election” (Lexington Books, 2018), which included collaborations from colleagues around the country.

All 12 chapters by a total of 25 scholars were edited by three Saint Anselm professors: Jennifer Lucas, professor of politics; Chris Galdieri, associate professor of politics; and Tauna Sisco, professor and chair of the sociology department.

Included is a chapter by Elizabeth Rickenbach, assistant professor of psychology, and Elizabeth Ossoff, professor and Saint Anselm psychology department chair, titled “Age and Gender Intersectionality in the 2016 Election."

Professors Rickenbach and Ossoff examined the long-studied gender gap in politics (partisan differences between men and women) in relation to age, hypothesizing that while men could be expected to vote more consistently with the Republican party and women could be expected to prefer the Democratic party, subgroups based on age and gender could further contribute to understanding voter behavior in the 2016 election.

Rickenbach and Ossoff examined a range of questions related to voter preferences from Edison exit polling data conducted on Election Day in November 2016 and compared these findings with gender and aging theory as well as established “norms” for voter behavior. They determined that “the gender gap in candidate preference was largely qualified by age. Older and middle-aged men, but not younger men, were more likely to vote for, and felt more favorable to, Donald Trump. For women, the gender gap (women leaning towards Clinton) was stronger for younger women compared to middle-aged and older women. Older women were almost equally likely to favor Trump and Clinton.

In addition, the professors suggest that the timing of the endorsement of a candidate may also illuminate age by gender patterns. Older male voters who voted for Clinton made their choice later than Trump voters for their candidate. Conversely, older female voters for Trump made their choice later than voters for Clinton.

Among suppositions for voter preference by gender, age, or both, are gender theories and aging theories, which may each operate differently across the lifespan. In the future, issues including retirement planning, the state of the economy, and key health care and reproductive issues are likely to be important in understanding voting patterns based on age by gender. Rickenbach and Ossoff point to the need for further study of a more detailed age breakdown, as well as the inclusion of key factors such as socio-economic status, race, ethnicity, religion, geography, and long-term analysis to better understand generational versus age-related changes in voting preferences and behaviors.

“It will be interesting to see how gender and age intersect with the mid-term elections of 2018, and especially so for the next Presidential election in 2020,” concludes Rickenbach. “Clearly, voters are motivated in all subgroups and their behaviors are being redefined.”