The Obama campaign's heavy focus on women's issues for the past year paid off in a big way on Tuesday night, resulting in an 18-point gender gap that largely contributed to the president's reelection.
According to CNN's exit polls, 55 percent of women voted for Obama, while only 44 percent voted for Mitt Romney. Men preferred Romney by a margin of 52 to 45 percent, and women made up about 54 percent of the electorate. In total, the gender gap on Tuesday added up to 18 percent -- a significantly wider margin than the 12-point gender gap in the 2008 election.
Women's strong support in the swing states gave Obama a significant advantage over Romney, despite his losses among men and independents. While Obama lost by 10 percentage points among independents in Ohio, he won by 12 points among women in the state. In New Hampshire, women voted for Obama over Romney by a margin of 58 to 42 percent, while men preferred Romney by a narrow 4-point gap. Pennsylvania showed a 16-point gender gap that tipped the scale toward Obama.
Romney seemed to struggle to connect with women as a result of the GOP's escalating efforts to limit women's reproductive rights and a series of controversial comments from Republicans about rape, birth control and abortion. Romney, in particular, alienated many female voters by dodging questions about equal pay legislation, pledging to defund Planned Parenthood and overturn Roe v. Wade, and backing legislation that would allow employers to deny women birth control coverage.
Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards said on Tuesday that women's health, more than ever, was a decisive issue in the 2012 election.
“This election sends a powerful and unmistakable message to members of Congress and state legislatures all around the country that the American people do not want politicians to meddle in our personal medical decisions," she said in a statement.