Gender gap in New Jersey voter preferences benefits Democrat in governor's race

Republican nominee Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, right, answers a question during a gubernatorial debate against Democratic nominee Phil Murphy at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J.  (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, pool)

Republican nominee Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, right, answers a question during a gubernatorial debate against Democratic nominee Phil Murphy at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, pool)

Republican Kim Guadagno is hoping to be the second woman elected governor of New Jersey, but female voters are showing more support for Democrat Phil Murphy.

Only 29 percent of likely women voters surveyed by Quinnipiac University favor Guadagno, while 65 percent support Murphy.

That breakdown fits with the gender gap observed since 1980, said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers.

“Women are more likely to support the Democratic candidate than men are, less likely to support the Republican candidate then men are. And it really is not about the gender of the candidate,” she said. “It is about the gender of the voters.”

Women see themselves as more economically vulnerable than men, and they tend to favor the Democratic Party and its longstanding support of social safety-net programs.

Women’s strong support for Murphy could reflect the association of Guadagno, the state’s two-term lieutenant governor, with the Christie administration.

“It could just be that women are … more opposed to the current administration than men are at the moment,” Walsh said.

With the election set for Nov. 7, Fairleigh Dickinson political science professor Krista Jenkins said, it will be hard for Guadagno to close the gap with Murphy.

“It would be very difficult for her to overcome the sizeable gender gap that she has right now in a week’s time,” Jenkins said. “Barring some shock to the system, some revelation associated with Murphy that would turn the tables on this dynamic, it would be historic if she were able to do this.”

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