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Zirpoli: Women will decide next president

Women will decide the winner of the 2016 presidential election.

Women make up about 51 percent of the United States adult population, but it is their voting numbers that make them a force in American politics. In the 2012 presidential election cycle, for example, 82 million women in America were registered to vote compared to 71 million men. When it came to turnout at the polls, 71 million women voted in 2012 compared to 62 million men. That's a 53 to 47 percent voting advantage for women.

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Female voters have outnumbered male voters in every national election since 1964. In 1964, female voters outnumbered male voters by only 1.7 million. By 2012, however, the voting gender gap grew to almost 10 million. While the number of female voters has increased by 82 percent since 1964, the number of male voters has increased by 64 percent. In other words, the disparity between female and male voters has been growing since 1964 and continues to grow today.

The national disparity between the number of women and men voters has been consistent in the Democratic primaries, but not in many of the Republican primaries. For example, in the recent New York primaries, 59 percent of the Democratic voters were female, compared to 44 percent of the Republican voters. In two swing states, females made up 58 percent of Democratic voters in the Florida primary, compared to 51 percent of Republican voters. And in Virginia, 57 percent of the Democratic primary voters were female, compared to 47 percent of Republican voters.

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Secretary Hillary Clinton won 61 percent of female Democratic voters in New York, 70 percent in Florida and 70 percent in Virginia. Donald Trump, winner of the GOP primary in all three states, won 57 percent of the female Republican vote in New York, 40 percent in Florida and 31 percent in Virginia.

In the last six presidential elections, a majority of women supported the Democratic candidate. In a contest where he won 49 out of 50 states, Gov. Ronald Reagan won the female vote in 1984 (55 percent to 45 percent), but that 10 point margin was significantly smaller than his 28 point win with males (64 percent to 36 percent).

Sen. Barack Obama won the female vote by 14 percentage points in 2008 over Sen. John McCain, and by 12 percentage points in 2012 over Gov. Mitt Romney. Obama also won 70 percent of single women voters in 2008 and 67 percent of them in 2012. Single women made up about 23 percent of voters in 2012.

What are women concerned about when they vote? A 2012 Gallup poll found that women voters listed reproductive rights and access to birth control choices among their primary concerns. They were also concerned about economic issues that directly influence their quality of life, such as minimum wage, pay equality and job discrimination.

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To win any election, you need to win any combination of male and female voters that will put you over 50 percent of the vote. When women bring an extra 10 million votes to the table, however, it becomes very difficult to win without their support.

Tom Zirpoli writes from Westminster. He is program coordinator of the Human Services Management graduate program at McDaniel College. His column appears Wednesdays. Email him at tzirpoli@mcdaniel.edu.

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