An analysis published Sunday by FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver in the New York Times shows that polling reveals that women's candidate preferences differ dramatically from men's in a gap greater than nearly any time in modern history.
"If only women voted, President Obama would be on track for a landslide re-election, equaling or exceeding his margin of victory over John McCain in 2008," Silver wrote. "If only men voted, Mr. Obama would be biding his time until a crushing defeat at the hands of Mitt Romney, who might win by a similar margin to the one Ronald Reagan realized over Jimmy Carter in 1980."
The polling averages vary widely, Silver writes, varying from 33 points in a Zogby for the Washington Times to just 8 points in Washington Post and Pew Research polls. "On average, however, there was an 18-point gender gap, with Mr. Obama leading by an average of 9 points among women but trailing by 9 points among men," Silver wrote.
Silver attributes this divide largely to the party's differences on reproductive rights and abortion.
The Guttmacher Institute noted that states enacted 92 new laws restricting abortion in 2011 -- the largest number ever enacted in a single year by far. Guttmacher also estimated that more than half of women living in the U.S. live in states "hostile" to abortion rights. One of the most controversial required a trans-vaginal ultrasound before an abortion in Virginia, sparked the Women's Strike Force, which is dedicated to defeating the supporters of the bill.
Meanwhile, leading Republican candidates actively spoken against abortion access, including Missouri Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin, who said he believed abortion exceptions for rape weren't necessarily because in the case of a "legitimate rape" a woman's body would "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan also co-authored legislation with Akin that attempted to restrict exceptions on abortion funding to "forcible rape," the term Akin said he meant to say in his original interview.
More recently, Rep. Joe Walsh argued against abortion exceptions because "health of the mother has become a tool for abortion for any time under any reason."
Many Republicans have also opposed a rule included in the Affordable Care Act that covers contraception as preventative care and therefore doesn't require a co-pay. Republicans introduced a bill in the House that would allow employers to stop coverage of contraception under a religious exemption in July, even if those employers don't run a religious institution.
Maureen Karas, southern director for the Nevada Federation of Republican Women, was quoted by the New York Times saying, “Birth control pills are like nine bucks. That’s like two lattes.”
But though abortion and contraception are certainly the most high-profile issues reported on in terms of this gender gap in polling. Silver reminded readers that reproductive rights doesn't entirely account for the difference in polling numbers.
"Apart from their views on abortion, women also take more liberal stances than men on social issues ranging from same-sex marriage to gun control," Silver wrote.