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The Dem-feminine mystique

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

Linda Friesen shows her support for the Democratic Party on Friday during the Obama bus campaign stop at the Durango Democratic Party Headquarters. One demographic group particularly strong for Democrats is women, and young female Democrats outnumber their Republican counterparts by 17,000.

By Joe Hanel Herald staff writer

DENVER – If there’s any such thing as a typical Colorado Democrat, it’s a woman age 41 to 60. For Republicans, it’s a man the same age.

New figures from the Secretary of State’s office offer a peek into the gender gap that separates the two main parties in Colorado. Among the striking revelations: Nearly 3 out of 5 Colorado Democrats are women.

In the Republican Party, men slightly outnumber women, 51 percent to 49 percent. Unaffiliated men outnumber their female counterparts by 4 percentage points.

And minor party members – Libertarians, Greens, American Constitutionalists – are heavily male.

Meanwhile, the youngest voters have had enough with all parties.

The gender gap is nothing new. For a few decades, Democrats have been known as the “mommy party” and Republicans as the “daddy party.”

But Pat Waak, who was chairwoman of the Colorado Democratic Party during the latter half of the last decade, said she thinks the new numbers are striking.

“That’s a little bit surprising to me. I’ve seen the gender gap between Republicans and Democrats before, but I don’t recall seeing it that high,” said Waak, who retired from her party post after the 2010 election.

Sen. Ellen Roberts of Durango is one of 3 out of 15 Republican woman state senators.

“I think Republicans have to better explain what we’re for,” Roberts said. “When we do a better job of explaining what it means to be a Republican, we’ll see more women choosing to become Republican.”

The economy and smart budgeting are very much women’s issues, Roberts said.

But social issues also drive women into the Democratic Party, said state Sen. Morgan Carroll of Aurora, chairwoman of the Senate Democratic caucus.

The Republican Party has hardened its stances on health care, abortion rights and pay equity, she said.

“I think over the last year or two, the public discourse has changed so radically on things like birth control,” Carroll said. “If this kind of conversation keeps up, it’s a trend that’s going to continue.”

In 2010, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., made an overt play for support by women and fended off a challenge by Republican Ken Buck. Waak said that election was around the time that Democrats truly realized the importance of women, young people and seniors.

“If a candidate does not realize that those constituencies are real power bases, they’re not going to win,” Waak said.

The Democratic advantage among women persists for most age groups until ages 71 and older, but the difference is especially stark for the newest voters.

Men aged 18-25 were just as likely to register Democrat as Republican, with both parties getting nearly 50,000 voters from that group.

But young female Democrats outnumber their Republican counterparts by 17,000. Just in the last month, Democrats have registered 6,000 young women, double the numbers of either young male Democrats, young male Republicans and young female Republicans.

The gender gap stays almost as big for women ages 26 to 40, and it narrows only somewhat in ages 41 to 60. It’s not until ages 71 and older that female Republicans outnumber Democrats.

Until August, the secretary of state’s office did not release partisan registration numbers by age or gender.

One other fact jumps out in the new numbers. Nearly half of voters age 18 to 25 did not register with any party.

For voters of all ages, Republicans and Democrats each claim 32 percent of the electorate, with unaffiliated voters at 35 percent.

But for ages 18 to 25, Democrats and Republicans take just 28 percent and 23 percent, respectively, while 48 percent of young voters registered unaffiliated.

The doesn’t surprise state House Majority Leader Amy Stephens, R-Monument.

Stephens spoke with many young voters during her hard-fought primary campaign this summer.

“That does not shock me at all, and I think that is the number we must watch,” Stephens said. “They are disillusioned with both parties, which is perhaps why you saw a lot of Ron Paul voters.”

jhanel@durangoherald.com

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