Election observers are discovering a surprising new trend among American voters. According to recent election polls, men and women voters are equally divided between those who support Republican President Geoprge W. Bush and those who back his opponent, Democratic Senator John Kerry president. The statistics break a two decades-long tradition of a so-called "gender gap" between male and female voters.

Political analysts say the "gender gap" began in 1980, when 54 percent of men voted for President Reagan compared with 46 percent of women. The eight-point divide created the first major statistical difference between men and women at the polls.

That trend has continued, with women tending to choose Democratic candidates and men leaning toward Republicans.

Now, various polls indicate just as many women support President Bush, a Republican, as his Democratic challenger, Senator Kerry. Author and campaign strategist Ethel Klein says the numbers are surprising.

"This election is the first time, I have ever seen since 1980, more - I mean, this is statistically tied," she said. "This makes no difference. I want you to know these numbers are the same in both these polls. Anytime I see 47 percent of women voting for Bush and 46 voting for Kerry, I go, 'I've never seen anything like this!' It just boggles my mind. Not because I may not like it. I have never seen numbers like this."

Ms. Klein, who heads a public opinion research firm, says when it comes to analyzing voter behavior according to gender, women tend to be more concerned about the economy than men, because women often have lower-paying jobs. Women also tend to support peace rather than war.

But now, the women's vote doesn't break down as simply as in years past. New terms have arisen, such as the "marriage gap" to describe married mothers with children, also called "security moms," who may base their choice on who is most likely to protect their families from terrorism. Recent polls show more married women support President Bush, while more single women favor Senator Kerry.

The last time there was an even split in the women's vote was in 1988, when 50 percent of women chose President George H. Bush and 49 percent voted for his Democratic challenger Michael Dukakis. Ms. Klein says many women who supported Mr. Dukakis for his economic platform chose President Bush when it came time to vote.

"When you interviewed women in the end [about] why they changed their mind, they said, 'We thought the economy was extremely important, but in the end security was important, and we didn't trust this man to handle national security and our safety,'" she noted.

Even though most American voters have already made up their minds about the coming presidential election, analysts estimate that about 60 percent of the remaining undecided voters are women, and that group's vote could be the deciding factor