The gender of voters’ children is rarely tracked by pollsters as an indicator of how people vote, but a slew of Republicans citing respect for daughters in criticizing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s hot-mic comments raised the question of what difference, if any, having a daughter makes in the way people view this issue or the campaign overall.
According to the latest national Washington Post-ABC News poll, having daughters matters — although perhaps not in the way one might expect.
Overall, parents with daughters were no more likely to support Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton against Trump than all likely voters (47 percent for each group). But Clinton did fare exceptionally well among parents who have only daughters and no sons, where Clinton led Trump by a margin of 58 percent to 37 percent. Clinton received a far lower 40 percent support among parents with sons only, and a similar 42 percent among parents who have sons and daughters.
Clinton’s standing among parents is notably on par with her support among non-parents (56 percent), a group dominated by younger people who tend to lean Democratic.
So what is it about daughters-only parents that makes them far more supportive of Clinton than Trump? There’s evidence that having daughters in general was a good predictor of Clinton’s support among Democrats in this year’s primary contest, according to an analysis of YouGov/Economist surveys by Michael Tesler at The Post’s Monkey Cage blog. On the other hand, it’s also worth noting that a large 2014 study by researchers at Columbia and Princeton universities found that the gender of a first child had little effect on parents’ overall partisanship or ideology.
One possibility is that they have reacted in an especially negative way to Trump’s past or recent criticism of women, such as how Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), a father of three daughters (and no sons), reacted to the “Access Hollywood” video reported two weeks ago:
Mitch McConnell: “Trump needs to apologize directly to women and girls everywhere.” pic.twitter.com/6BvXbvUQvC
— Katy Tur (@KatyTurNBC) October 8, 2016
The Post-ABC poll finds little evidence for this. Parents of only daughters are no more likely than voters overall to say Trump’s videotape comments made them less likely to vote for him (33 percent for daughters-only parents vs. 35 percent for all voters), nor were they much more likely to say that Trump’s treatment of women is a legitimate issue in the campaign (56 percent vs. 55 percent). Parents of only daughters were slightly more apt to say Trump’s apology was not sincere (64 percent vs. 57 percent), but no more apt to say his comments went beyond the way men typically talk about women (51 percent vs. 52 percent).
The bigger reason for Clinton’s big lead among parents with daughters and no sons may be a usual suspect: long-term partisan loyalty. A 55 percent majority of this group identifies as Democratic or leans toward the Democratic Party, while 34 percent leaned Republican. That 21-point split is wider than Democrats’ six-point advantage in self-identification with all likely voters (48 percent Democrat, 42 percent Republican).
That last finding is a good indicator that the reason parents with only daughters support Clinton has less to do with Trump than the party he belongs to.
The Post-ABC poll was conducted Oct. 10-13 among a random national sample of 1,152 adults reached on cellular and landline phones. The margin of sampling error for overall results is plus or minus three percentage points; the margin of error is four points among the sample of 740 likely voters.