"I think the gender gaps are growing compared to past election cycles," said Matt Canter, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's deputy executive director. "We'll see how that turns out, but that's certainly what the public and internal polling shows, in every race across the board."
It's a trend several Republicans privately admitted they are watching nervously, though some point out that one end of the growing gap isn't bad news for the GOP. "I haven't seen gender gaps like this in any race until this year, and we're seeing them all over the place," said Nicole McCleskey, a New Mexico-based Republican pollster for Public Opinion Strategies. "Typically people say we're in bad shape with women, but it's also that Democrats are not doing well with men. That's why the gap is exploding like it is."
In Senate and governor's races since 2004, the average gender gap has been 13 points, according to a review of exit polls from the past decade, and just seven races (out of more than 200 measured in that time) have had gender gaps of more than 30 points. (The 2010 Colorado Senate race, in which Republicans carried male voters by 14 points but lost among women by 17 points for a 31-point gender gap, is one rare example.)
Since August, though, independent live-caller polls of Senate and gubernatorial battlegrounds have had an average gender gap of more than 20 points, and the gaps have topped 30 points in multiple polls of three races: the North Carolina and Iowa Senate contests and the Massachusetts gubernatorial election. There are only three battlegrounds where Democrats have trailed among women in a Senate or gubernatorial contest, and only another three where Republicans have trailed among men in any independent live-caller poll.
GRAPHIC: Compared to recent elections, this year's polls show larger gender gaps.
Even as Senate polls in New Hampshire have tightened, a wide gulf between women's support for incumbent Democrat Jeanne Shaheen and male support for Republican Scott Brown has remained. Democrats in Colorado have made the Senate campaign there all about abortion and birth-control access, driving a larger-than-average wedge between Republican Rep. Cory Gardner and women voters even as he does well among men in polls. That issue, along with equal pay, the Violence Against Women Act, and several others, have come to the fore in 2014 as the Democratic Party seeks to take advantage of numerous Republican lapses with women voters over the past few years, in rhetoric and policy.
"There's an underlying, structural gender gap, with women more likely to identify with the Democratic Party and men more likely to identify with the Republican Party," said Democratic pollster Mark Mellman. "But on top of that, the forces of this campaign and the way Republicans are seen as treating women "... that's another layer" building on top of the existing trend.