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Millennial Women and the 2016 Election

Gender played a significant role in the presidential race and it affects how young people are perceiving politics and civic life after the election.

In a new paper released today, CIRCLE Director Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg explores youth voting by gender in the 2016 election, as well as post-election reflections among Millennials about gender, the election, and the Trump administration. Gender played a crucial role in the election: the share of moderate young men who voted for a Democratic candidate dropped by double digits between 2012 and 2016, fueling gaps in vote choice among some youth. Meanwhile, after the election, Millennial women have expressed more concern for U.S. democracy than their male peers.

For the full analysis, find Kawashima-Ginsberg’s full paper here.

This is the third analysis of our series about Millennials post-election. The first post focuses on differences among Trump and Clinton supporters on whether and how they plan to be politically engaged after the election, and the second focuses on different civic resources accessible to Millennials depending on their geographic location, especially Millennials in rural areas.

Here we summarize a paper by Kawashima-Ginsberg for a symposium on gender1 and Millennials convened by the Council on Contemporary Families. The full list of research in the symposium can be found here.


Our key findings include:

  • The biggest difference in presidential vote choice between young men and women was among those who have some college experience but not (yet) a degree. In this group, 63% of young women voted for Secretary Clinton, while 47% of young men did the same. As previously mentioned, this gap appears to be driven largely by young men who identify as moderate.
  • As we have previously discussed, race and ethnicity also correlated with large differences in levels of support for 2016 presidential candidates. At least 70% of young Black voters (men and women) and of young Latinas supported Secretary Clinton in the election, while 52% of young white men and 41% of young white women supported President Trump. In fact, exit polls suggest that young white men, usually outnumbered by young white women in the electorate, were more active in 2016 than in recent presidential elections.
  • CIRCLE’s Millennial poll provides some clues about young white women’s relative ambivalence in their support for Clinton: 50% voted for her and 41% for Trump. For example, only 25% of Millennial women report thinking of themselves as a feminist. In addition, though they believe gender played a role in the election, most Millennial women in our poll indicated that their feminism is personal and does not necessarily manifest itself in political actions. One-quarter of Millennial women reported that Clinton inspired them, but only 14% said that electing the first woman president of the U.S. was an important factor in their vote choice.

Right now, Millennial women are less hopeful than Millennial men about the future of American democracy. However, that gender gap in concern for democracy does not necessarily translate into a gap in plans for political action: Millennial women report being motivated to engage politically at similar levels as Millennial men. However, since Millennial women had reported less political engagement than their male peers before the election, the fact that they now indicate similar levels of intention to participate may suggest a small rise for young women.

[1] The data used for this paper includes youth (18-29) data from the Edison Research exit poll and Millennial data (18-34) from CIRCLE’s post-election poll. The former provides two possible answers regarding gender for respondents to choose from, and the latter provides four, but the sample sizes for categories other than "man" and "woman" were not large enough for reliable analysis.