Just how bad are Donald Trump’s problems with women? Bad enough that roughly seven out of 10 women voters in recent polls say they have a negative impression of him. And that was before the news coverage of his threat to “spill the beans” about Ted Cruz’s wife and his talk about punishing women who have abortions.
Trump is already so dangerously underwater with female voters – who represent a majority of the electorate — that it raises questions about whether a GOP ticket led by the billionaire could lead to a historic gender gap and blowout defeat.
The percentages of women who had an unfavorable or negative impression of Trump in recent public polls are staggering: 67 percent (Fox News), 67 percent (Quinnipiac University), 70 percent (NBC News/Wall Street Journal), 73 percent (CNN/ORC) and 74 percent (ABC News/Washington Post).
“Those are stunningly unfavorable numbers. It would be tremendously difficult for Donald Trump to win the general with those kinds of numbers,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll. “Historically, I can’t imagine anyone having worse numbers with women. But historically, there’s never been anyone like Donald Trump.”
Trump does not acknowledge the deficit he faces with women voters, and has instead claimed that he will be “the best thing that ever happened to women.”
Yet from the start of primary season, Trump has struggled with female voters in Republican primaries. In the 17 states with entrance or exit polls, Trump has run better with men than with women in every one of them, by an average of 7 percentage points.
Evidence of his favorability among Republican women is more elusive. While a majority of female GOP voters had an unfavorable opinion of Trump in the most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, the numbers were basically reversed in the latest CNN/ORC poll — with 59 percent of women who identified as Republicans saying they had a favorable opinion of Trump.
The ABC News/Washington Post poll, in particular, points to a troubling trend for Trump: Republican women have been turning against him as the GOP race has unfolded. In November, about two-thirds of Republican women had a favorable opinion of Trump in an ABC News/Washington Post poll, while now only 43 percent do.
The gender gap is hurting him in Wisconsin, where Republicans go to the polls next Tuesday. A Marquette Law School poll of likely GOP primary voters released on Wednesday, which showed Ted Cruz 10 points ahead of Trump, shows Trump running better among men (36 percent) than women (24 percent). Cruz, meanwhile, runs as well among women (39 percent) as he does among men (40 percent).
“There is a gender gap, and Trump’s performance and support among women is 11 points lower than it is [among men],” Marquette pollster Charles Franklin said.
Cruz, Trump’s main rival, is working to pounce on that gap. On Wednesday, the Texas senator rolled out his “Women for Cruz” coalition, which features one-time candidate Carly Fiorina, his wife and his mother.
Later Wednesday, Cruz’s campaign jumped on Trump’s misstatement on abortion, with campaign chairman Chad Sweet telling CNN that Cruz “shares the views of the pro-life movement, which for years has focused on punishing those who perform abortions, not the women who get them.”
If Trump does win the nomination and heads to the general election, he faces a daunting demographic reality among a statistically important sub-group: white women. The most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll shows white women, who have voted Republican as a whole in each of the past four elections, have a terrible impression of Trump: Only 29 percent view him favorably, compared to 68 percent who have an unfavorable opinion of him.
Compare that to 2012, when Mitt Romney carried white women by a 14-point margin, 56 percent to 42 percent – and still lost by four points overall.
“People always assume [President Barack Obama] won white women. He didn’t,” Romney pollster Neil Newhouse said at a POLITICO event last year. “The mantra among our campaigns is that if you as a Republican win among white women, you have a hell of a chance to win the election. It’s not white women we have a problem with, it’s minority women.”
But Trump has a problem with both white and non-white women, polls show. And it could lead to a yawning gender gap – and a likely Trump loss.
Head-to-head polls of registered voters released this month — all of which put Trump significantly behind Hillary Clinton overall — show massive Clinton leads among female voters. A Quinnipiac University poll placed Clinton at 16 points ahead of Trump among women. Clinton also led among women by 19 points among women in a Fox News poll, and by 27 points in a CNN/ORC poll.
Katie Glueck contributed to this report.
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