[Editor’s note: This is the last of a six-part series by Paul Lukasiak on what polling reveals about how Americans will vote in the coming election. For more details, see parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.— DN]
PART VI: When Race Becomes an Issue — The Gender Gap Over Time
The SUSA 50 state poll provides an excellent opportunity to describe the contours of the political landscape at a specific point in time, but cannot tell us anything about voter behavior over time within that landscape. The image is static; it’s not a movie, but a snapshot (or, perhaps more appropriately, a multi-dimension holographic image), and where voters are “pooled” like a liquids in 50 different areas of that landscape.
As the contours of the landscape change, the voters wind up “pooling” in different places, and a political campaign is the equivalent of candidates and other people trying to shift the contours of the landscape to get the voters to “pool” where they want them. While the actions of the candidates and others can change the contours of the landscape by raising issues and providing new information, the landscape can also change “naturally”. But ultimately, it is “the media” that controls the landscape by controlling the access, and more crucially, the nature of the access, to the levers and pulleys that change the contours of that landscape.
It is “the media” that decides whether “illegal immigration” or “universal health coverage” or “Hillary Clinton’s tax returns” is actually the force determining the contours of the landscape, and decides who has what kind of access to the levers of power as the landscape changes. The SUSA 50 state poll provides a still picture of what looks like a “political landscape”, but when that picture comes to life and the contours begin to shift, it is because what we are really looking at is a “media landscape”.
The media manifestly shape voter behavior, and that couldn’t be clearer than when we examine how their handling of issues of race (and accusations of racism) over the course of the campaign alters voting patterns in ways that leave the gender gap relatively unaffected.
So as the landscape changes, and the voters “pool” in different areas, the gender gap itself usually changes. South Carolina and Ohio provide two examples of how the gender gap changes as the “media landscape” changes — but how, when the media decides to make “race” an issue, it can shift large numbers of voters without substantially altering the gender gap. (more…)