Friday, January 18, 2013

Nope, Chris Christie doesn't turn off women

How often do you hear this claim?

Chris Christie's bravado, his machismo, his musky sex-Panther-like cologne of a personality will annoy women and will only deepen the gender gap if Republicans nominate him in 2016.

You hear it a lot. But unfortunately, never with any empirics attached.

Let's consider the evidence:

First, I'm not going to use any poll that has come out, post-Sandy.

Those artificially inflate Christie's numbers and don't do much except to scare Cory Booker away.

To truly figure out whether the Christie Turns Off Women meme is true, let's go to pre-Sandy polling.

The last public poll that I could find before Hurricane Sandy hit came via Farleigh Dickinson in August 2012 and showed Christie sporting a 49%/38% approval rating with women.

Now.... that was far short of his 61%/32% approval rating with men, but remember a) women are more Democratic than men and b) Christie was still at +11% among women -- a very strong number for a Republican governor in a blue state.

In fact, if Mitt Romney's favorable rating were +11% with women, he would probably be president today.

The important thing here is that the Dickinson poll came nearly three years after Christie entered office.

Theoretically, his schtick was going to get old -- they told us -- and his bravado would become increasingly noxious to women. But that doesn't seem to have happened.

One of the most interesting questions in the poll was this: "Do Governor Christie's town hall meetings help or hurt his image with you?"

22% of women said the town halls made them like him better, 24% said they made them dislike him more. In other words, they were essentially split.

That's not a superlative number for him, but it does cast doubt on the idea that women convulse when they see him at town halls.

In fact, 55% of women thought the town halls were an effective form of communication, while just 31% said they were ineffective.

In other words, women don't view town halls as some medium for Christie to indulge misogynistic, imperious whims. They actually think they're pretty good.

But that's just one poll, right?

Let's go to some others.

In July of 2012, Monmouth put out a survey that put Christie's approval rating with women at 45%/40%. Again, not outstanding, but pretty impressive in a blue state, with the bluer gender.

Meanwhile, by 38%-35%, women said Christie helped New Jersey's image with the rest of the country. In other words, they weren't exactly embarrassed of him.

Let's go to another poll -- this from Rutgers in June 2012.

In that survey, Christie picked up a 45%/45% favorable rating with women. Again, that was far lower than his +21% rating with men, but gender gaps are pretty standard -- particularly in a blue state with a ton of Democratic women.

And, keep in mind, that was favorability rating -- that's personal impressions of a governor; not approval of the job he's doing.

Okay, let's go to another poll.

This May 2012 survey is another Farleigh Dickinson production, and once again, it shows Christie on the right side of the ledger with women.

48% of women approved of the job he was doing, while just 39% (again in New Jersey!) disapproved for a +9% rating.

Now let's travel to April 2012 and another Monmouth survey.

In that poll, women gave Christie a 43%/42% approval rating, which wasn't great but wasn't bad, and was slightly ahead of women's opinion of the Democratic-controlled state legislature.

Keep in mind, too, that the poll had a +14% Democratic sample, which is a good reflection of New Jersey, and which also makes Christie's +1% with women all the stronger.

Meanwhile a Quinnipiac survey taken that same month (April 2012) showed Christie with a +10% approval rating with women and -- get this -- a +17% favorable rating with women.

Now, of course, those are just five polls, but they're the most recent pre-Sandy polling that I'm aware of, and they share the following things.

1. Since they're pre-hurricane, they're much better reflections of core opinion.

2. Christie's abrasiveness hasn't gotten increasingly wearisome to women. All of the polls were from 2012 -- three years after he became governor.

3. In every one of the polls, women were either split on Christie or were distinctly positive.

UPSHOT: There's no evidence, at all, that women are unusually turned off by Christie or that his style is especially offensive to them. In fact, he scores surprisingly well with women, considering New Jersey is a very blue state.

Thus, the idea that Christie would deepen the gender gap for the GOP is just that -- an idea. And not a very good one, at that.