"These issues are overshadowed by the economy and jobs by most voters," said Carroll Doherty, Pew associate director.
The reason women often vote differently from men is rooted in economic issues.
Pew found that women’s views of abortion were virtually the same as men’s. Another spring survey found that 40 percent of women said abortion should be illegal all or most of the time, compared with 43 percent of men. And 55 percent said it should be legal all or most of the time, compared with 51 percent of men.
But women, Pew found, are more likely to favor a bigger government that provides more services and does more for the elderly, the poor and children.
The gender gap has been clear in presidential elections since at least 1980, but its effect on the eventual outcome of elections remains a subject of debate.
Republicans took a sharply conservative turn that year, and their platform abandoned the party’s historic support of the Equal Rights Amendment and included strong anti-abortion language.
Democrats thought they had a huge opening then, particularly since, unlike in 2012, women’s rights issues triggered a fierce fight between the still-sizable corps of Republican moderates and the newly powerful conservatives. Nearly 12,000 ERA supporters marched in Detroit, the site of the Republican convention.
But exit polling on Election Day found that Republican Ronald Reagan, a staunch ERA foe, had split the women’s vote with Democrat Jimmy Carter. Reagan coasted to victory, as he won the men’s vote by 17 percentage points.
Experts see a potential difference in how women’s votes could be affected this year. Abortion and other reproductive rights issues have a megaphone they haven’t had in years, and Democrats are going to keep it loud and constant.
They released a list of speakers for their convention next month that’s a who’s who of folks who lived that narrative: Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund; Nancy Keenan, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America; Lilly Ledbetter, whose experience led to the passage of an equal pay law, and Fluke.
But history, polling and independent studies have found repeatedly that women care most about the economy.
Walsh noted that women not only are usually the managers of a household’s finances, but also tend to be more vulnerable to economic swings. They’re disproportionately in lower-paying jobs, and they tend to live longer, meaning they depend more on federal support programs such as Medicare and Social Security.
“The kitchen table issues really matter,” Walsh said.