According to a CNN poll released over a week ago, very few said it was important to have a Hispanic or black nominee. And almost as many women (58%) as men (65%) said it was not important for Obama to pick a woman. A Gallup poll from around the same time showed similar results.
But, now that Sonia Sotomayor has been named, a new Gallup poll shows a gender gap has emerged. Of the last four nominees, she has the largest gender gap in support. There isn’t male animosity toward Sotomayor, as they are evenly divided on her nomination. However, women are overwhelmingly supportive (54% excellent/good idea, 25% only fair/poor), with three times as many finding her an “excellent” pick as a “poor” one.
Gallup suggests this gap could stem from gender differences in party identification. But the gender gap in party identification has been consistent for some time, yet only Alito also evoked a gender gap (a smaller one, in the opposite direction). And it is not simply the nomination of any woman that spurs a gap, as Harriet Miers was not any more popular with women. It is likely the combination of both the nomination of a woman, and women’s Democratic proclivities that produce the gap.
But something else strikes me as important. Despite voters’ claims that a nominee’s gender or race is irrelevant, Sotomayor’s gender does seem to improve her standing with women. This suggests voters may be unwilling, or unable, to report preferences they may have for a candidate of a specific race or gender.