In other words, this story may have less to do with Mr. Biden, and may even be the rare Trump-related story that has less to do with Mr. Trump. Rather, it is a story about Mrs. Clinton and sexism — a “gendered” view of the candidate, as Ms. Greenberg put it — in which the potential of the first woman president raised the importance of issues like feminism, abortion and the culture wars, all of which help explain the gender gap in the first place.
“She was not well-liked by large numbers of the public, but especially by independent and Republican men,” said Eric Plutzer, a professor of political science at Penn State University. “There were opportunities for Biden to win back some of that demographic.”
The pool of married men was also very different last year than in 2016. The Cooperative Election Study asked respondents whom they had supported in both 2016 and 2020, and found that married men were not particularly likely to have switched between the parties, Dr. Schaffner said. However, because of death, divorce and marriage, the composition of this group changed. It got younger and more millennial. And that meant it got more Democratic.
“This is not your father’s married man,” Dr. Schaffner said.
Indeed, the elections analyst Nathaniel Rakich floated a theory on a recent podcast that the sharp increase in mail-in voting last year — when, thanks to Covid-19, numerous states made that option easier and unprecedented numbers of voters chose it — led to more married couples discussing their votes, perhaps even seeing each other’s ballots, and that this, in turn, led to more straight-ticket household voting. And if married men moved toward the Democrat while married women were consistent, it would seem likelier that husbands acceded to their wives rather than the opposite. “Wife Guys” for Biden?
Ms. Greenberg said it was impossible to know if this had happened, but noted that “vote-by-mail was heavily Democratic.”
Finally, a big story of the election was a divide among voters based on education, as those with college degrees moved toward Mr. Biden and those without headed toward Mr. Trump. That could help explain the shift among married men, who are likely to be middle class, Dr. Schaffner said.