The drop-off began even before this week's women-focused news. That included Trump's shifting views on whether a woman should face punishment for having an abortion if the procedure is banned. And defense of his campaign manager after he was accused of assaulting a female campaign reporter.
Since announcing his campaign for the presidency last June, Trump has struggled to gain ground with women voters, never reaching a net-positive favorable rating among women overall and faring better among men than among women in every single state where exit or entrance polls have been conducted so far this primary season.
Overall, 73% of female voters in a mid-March CNN/ORC poll said they had a negative view of Trump, just 26% view him positively. That unfavorable number is up 14 points in the last few months: from 59% in December and 67% in late February. Even Republican women, who mostly have favorable views of Trump, are more likely to report unfavorable opinions now than they were a few months ago, 39% unfavorable in March vs. 29% in December. Among men, however, there has been no such shift, with 54% holding an unfavorable view in December, 52% in February and 57% now.
As of mid-March, a CNN/ORC Poll found that Republican women generally had a favorable impression of Trump and were only slightly less likely than Republican men to say they wanted Trump to win the party's nomination (50% of men backed Trump vs. 44% of women). That gap is similar to the one found in exit and entrance polls across 20 states thus far in the nomination contest. Though Trump has carried women's votes in many of them, on average, Trump's support among men outpaces that among women by 7 points.
But those fairly small differences between Republican men and Republican women mask Trump's larger image issues with women voters overall. Trump's favorability rating among women voters generally is the worst out of all the remaining major party presidential candidates, and is on the decline. Beyond that, in hypothetical general election matchups, Trump trails Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton among women by a significantly larger margin than the other remaining Republican candidates.
Matched up against Clinton in a hypothetical general election matchup, 60% of women voters say they would back Clinton, 33% Trump. That compares with a 50% Trump to 45% Clinton split among men. Both Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz fare much better among women against Clinton than Trump, with Kasich trailing Clinton by 7 and Cruz down 15 points.
Those Kasich and Cruz margins are more in line with GOP presidential performance among women voters in recent elections. CNN exit polls showed women broke for Obama over Romney by 11 points in 2012, and in Obama's favor over McCain by 13 points in 2008. George W. Bush's 48% support among women marked the best showing by a Republican candidate among women since his father notched 50% in 1988.
And few women voters in the poll see Trump as particularly empathetic to their concerns. Asked whether Trump or Clinton "agrees with you on the issues that matter most to you," 57% of female voters choose Clinton, 32% Trump and 11% say neither. Among Republican women, most choose Trump, 73%, but a whopping 17% say neither Trump nor Clinton agrees with them on their top issues. Just 4% of Democratic women say the same on that question.
Women voters generally and Republican women in particular are more likely than men to say that Trump is more apt than Clinton to change his positions for political reasons. Overall, 48% of women say Trump is more likely than Clinton to change his views for political reasons, while 37% of men choose Trump. Among Republican women, 35% name Trump vs. 21% of Republican men.
And while about 4 in 10 Republican men and Republican women say they would be enthusiastic if Trump won the Party's nomination, Republican women are nearly three times as likely as GOP men (31% to 13% among men) to say they would be upset if he prevailed in the end.
The CNN/ORC Poll was conducted by telephone March 17-20 among 1,001 randomly selected adult Americans, including 925 registered voters. The results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, it is 4.5 points for results among women voters overall and 7 points for results among Republican women voters.