Female voters and US presidential election

Read few comments.

Questions:

1. What is the importance of women’s vote in this election? Some media point out that the support of women can be decisive. Is it true? If yes, is this election somehow special or the same can be said about every presidential election?

2. According to polls Barack Obama’s lead among women voters vanished in the last weeks of the campaign. What do you think was the reason? Can you identify moments in both campaigns, when you can say: this is when the candidate won / lost a lot of female supporters?

3. Can we say that some issues of the campaign are more important for women or would that be too simplifying?

Answers:

Dianne Bystrom, Director, Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics, Iowa State University

1. Women make up a larger proportion of the U.S. population in numbers. In addition, more women are registered to vote and more women turn out to vote. In the 2008 election, 9.7 million more women voted than men. Also, women tend to vote for Democrats, while men tend to vote for Republicans. This is known as the gender gap, and it has been in play for every presidential election since 1980.

2. Throughout most of the campaign, women have favored President Obama, by varying percentages. One of the largest gender gaps (women in favor of Obama) was the day before the first presidential debate. The gender gap closed during the debates, most likely because Mitt Romney presented himself as a moderate and more supportive of social issues of concern to women (e.g, birth control). President Obama will have more women supporters in his base, and Mitt Romney will have more men in his base.

3. The top issue for women and men is the economy, but for different reasons. Women make less money than men in the U.S., and, therefore, are worried about the economy for different reasons. For example, women worry more about pay and men worry more about the federal deficit. Women and men also differ on their views of the role of government with women, in general, supporting a government that provides services to the elderly, children and the poor and men, in general, supporting a very limited government.

Ronnee Schreiber, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, San Diego State University

1. In the US women are registered in greater numbers than men and also vote more than men do so that alone means women as a group are vital. In addition, there is a gender gap that typically favors Democrats (meaning women are more likely to vote for Dems) so both major parties vie for their votes and recognize this issue. However, not all women are Democrats and there are many women, especially white ones, who tend to vote for Republicans.

2. For now, there is still a gender gap favoring Obama. Romney does not support abortion rights and has mande a few gaffes about women’s rights so that is not helping him. However, women are just as concerned about the economy as men are and those voters tend to favor Romney by a slight margin.

3. That is too simplistic. However, there are some key issues that are more salient for women voters — abortion rights, education, pay equity and health care. Men care about those too, but when voting, they don’t list them as highly as women in terms of what matters to them with regard to candidates’ positions.

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