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White Gender Gap in Obama Approval Widens With Education

White Gender Gap in Obama Approval Widens With Education

Clinton trends suggest pattern may be typical for Democratic president

PRINCETON, NJ -- Approval of President Barack Obama among white U.S. adults has held fairly steady around the 41% mark in 2010, after a gradual decline from 62% in January 2009. At the same time, a gender gap among whites, averaging six percentage points, has persisted throughout Obama's presidency. Thus far in May, his approval rating is 44% among white women vs. 39% among white men.

2009-2010 Trend: Approval of President Barack Obama Among Whites, by Gender

The white gender gap in views of Obama is not evident among all demographic subgroups. Rather, there is a distinct socioeconomic cast to it. Gallup Daily data collected thus far in May find white men and white women with no college background holding similar views on Obama. The slight gender gap that exists among whites with some college experience (41% approval among women vs. 37% among men) expands moving up the educational ladder to 10 points among those with at least some postgraduate education.

The widening gender gap that occurs among whites as education increases is mainly the result of increasing approval among women at each educational threshold -- surging to 62% among postgraduates. By contrast, approval among white men is fairly steady up to the college graduate level, and then it increases significantly among postgraduates.

Approval of Barack Obama -- Whites by Gender/Education, May 1-19, 2010

One might ask how much these differences have to do with Obama himself -- as opposed to his Democratic Party affiliation. The ratings of President Bill Clinton provide some insight into this. In the fall of 1993, when Clinton's approval rating among whites (then 44%) was similar to Obama's today, approval for Clinton among whites ranged from 36% among men with a college degree to 62% among postgraduate women -- almost identical to the pattern now seen for Obama.

Approval of Bill Clinton -- Whites by Gender/Education, September-November 1993

By contrast, on average over the course of George W. Bush's entire presidency, approval of Bush among white men and women varied relatively little by education, although approval among men was consistently higher at each level.

Approval of George W. Bush -- Whites by Gender/Education, 2001-2008

Income Also Separates White Men and Women

White men and women of different household income levels also differ in their reactions to Obama. His approval rating is similar among men and women in the lowest income group, but moves in opposite directions as household income increases. Approval among white men decreases with household income (up to the $90,000 level) while approval among white women generally increases. The result is 12- to 13-point gender gaps in approval among upper-income whites.

Approval of Barack Obama -- Whites by Gender/Income, May 1-19, 2010

Bottom Line

Approval of President Obama among whites (averaging 41% thus far in May) lags well behind that of all nonwhites (68%), and particularly that of blacks (91%). However, the gender differences among whites of different income and educational levels are quite large. These produce an approval range for Obama that spans from 36% among white males without a college education (as well as upper-middle-income white males) to 62% among postgraduate-educated women. While stark, the differences appear to be typical for a Democratic president.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with a random sample of 9,774 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted May 1-19, 2010, as part of Gallup Daily tracking. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone only).

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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