Women crucial to Biden's win, even as gender gap held steady

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Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

FILE - Participants in the Women's March gather near the White House in Washington, in this Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, file photo. From nearly the moment Donald Trump took the presidential oath, it was women who were the face of the resistance -- marching in enormous numbers and fueling Democratic gains in the 2018 midterm elections.(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

Ask Virginia voter Mary Hayes why Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump, and she does not hesitate.

“Women won this election!” says Hayes, 56, a mother of three and Biden supporter from Leesburg, Virginia. In particular, she credits two categories of voters that she herself is part of: Black women and suburban women. Trump had begged the latter group — some of whom he’d alienated by referring to them as “housewives" — to “please, please” like him. But that plea rang hollow, she says.

“We showed America that suburban women are diverse, and are a beautiful collection of ethnicity, race, marital status, occupations and many other categories," Hayes says. “Suburban women mobilized, determined to remove Trump from office." And, she says, they succeeded.

From nearly the moment Trump took the presidential oath, it was women who were the face of the resistance — marching in enormous numbers in their pussyhats, and fueling Democratic gains in the 2018 midterm elections.

So in 2020, the year women celebrated the centennial of the 19th Amendment guaranteeing their right to vote, many had expected — and some polls suggested — a dramatic repudiation of Trump with a widened gender gap. The results were a bit more complicated.

Hayes is correct that women were crucial to Biden’s victory — simply stated, if only men had voted, Trump would have won. Black women and suburban women, in particular, proved to be pillars of Biden's coalition. But the election also delivered a reminder of Republicans' strength with other groups of women.

Trump had a modest advantage among white women, and a much wider share of white women without college degrees, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of more than 110,000 voters. And despite expectations that the much-analyzed gender gap would expand, it remained essentially the same from previous elections, including 2016.

In Congress, the big news was significant gains for Republican women, and overall a record number of women will serve in the 117th Congress — at least 141, including 105 Democrats and 36 Republicans, according to current numbers from the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University.