Sorry, Cindy Gillespie: according to the latest polls, it doesn’t look like women are going for Mitt Romney (no matter how courtly he may be.) In an official statement last week on the part of the Romney campaign, Romney’s former employee announced that she would share the “insights and stories that women voters want to hear before they make up their minds.” And on Thursday, Gillespie and three other women who worked with Romney’s governing team in Massachusetts — Ellen Herzfelder, environmental affairs secretary; Beth Lindstrom, secretary of consumer affairs and business regulation, and Renee Fry, deputy chief of staff — took to the campaign trail along with Ann Romney to win over the “women block.”
Romney badly needs the help, if the latest Quinnipiac poll is any indication. Women favor Obama over Romney in several key states: 58-39% in Florida, 60-35% in Ohio, and 58-37% in Pennsylvania (versus 50-47%, 52-44%, and 49-48% for men in the respective states.) Nationally, Obama “holds a 56% to 37% lead among women registered voters, but only runs about even among men (47% Romney, 46% Obama).”
The gender gap among voters is particularly important in this presidential election, because men and women appear to have different opinions on what the role of government should be — a pivotal question in 2012. Currently, 56% of voters say they would rather have a smaller government with fewer services versus 35% who prefer big government, according to the Pew Research Center. This change is significant, but not huge; in October 2008, the split was 46% smaller versus 40% bigger.
In 2012, though, the role of government in America is directly tied to the biggest issue facing both candidates, and the nation as a whole: the economy.
“You know, women who have taken the hardest hit from the Obama economy: more women now live poverty than then they have in 17 years. In my mind, the real War on Women has been economic and I know Mitt Romney can turn this economy around,” Gillespie explained. “I know he cares, but more important to me – Mitt knows what to do. And, honestly, I’m more concerned about action than talk right now.”
Given that women now make up a majority of the working world — so much so that journalists speculate about the end of men, the heir apparent of the “he-cession”— it should go without saying that women are evaluating the candidates based on their stances on the economy. (It doesn’t seem to go without saying, but it should.)
But many women disagree that Mitt Romney knows what to do, according to a new poll of 1,000 women conducted by the YWCA USA. The poll attempts to measure women’s policy concerns and priorities. According to researchers, there appears to be little evidence that women are divided on social issue/economic issue lines (though, as I’ve said before, these lines are blurry at best.) According to the report, “80% of women agree on 80% of the issues.”
These issues are multifarious: women (shockingly) “possess a unique ability to worry about multiple concerns” and “expect our country’s leaders to demonstrate a capacity to deal with a large number of competing and interacting priorities.” Women also tend to understand that the issues facing their families are the same issues facing the nation, which perhaps explains why Ann Romney and Michelle Obama keep reminding us of their mom status; “the top three concerns among women are solidly at the intersection of macro- and micro-economics, as well as at the intersection of personal concerns and the broader discussion of policy in our country.” But the biggest concern?
“To women, the financial crisis in the U.S. is a top priority; 82% say this should be a top priority for the next president and for Congress.”
You would think this would mean that women would be reacting positively to Mitt Romney’s continual assertion that the real war on women is economic. Romney has claimed that under Obama, 92.3% of the job losses in America have happened to women (a statement which economists call “misleading”).
So why are women still overwhelmingly pro-Obama? (Sorry, Michelle Malkin.)
It may be turn out that the big government vs. small government debate may be a gendered one.
“When asked which of these entities (state and local government, Congress, the president, small business, major corporations or Wall Street) has the greatest ability to spur growth in the economy, more women volunteered ‘all of the above’ as a response than women who choose [sic] any one option.”
Perhaps Obama has better demonstrated his commitment towards working with working women. Though Obama’s efforts to rally women around social issues may not have worked as well as he hoped it would, he did do some good when it came to equal pay, even if the Paycheck Fairness Act failed in the Senate. Maybe women favor Obama because they know that their working situations, by and large, still aren’t on par with those of men, and Obama seems to be working to address this situation. (In contrast, Mitt Romney has been oddly silent on the issue of the gender wage gap.)
Or perhaps women are generally more supportive of his other policies because they favor his policies for other issues, as indicated by the top three priorities of the women surveyed: the disappearing middle class, Social Security, and health insurance.
Speculation aside, when we examine recent polling data, we should keep in mind that when we poll “likely voters,” we’re probably polling more women than men. Take another look at the Quinnipiac polls: the Florida sample includes 652 women and 544 men, in Ohio, 612 women to 550 men, and 602 women versus 578 men in Pennsylvania. More women are currently registered to vote than men; women will be the determining factor in this election. Thus, saying that Romney is losing ground with women voters — if, in fact, he ever had that ground in the first place — is just confirming a general trend for the candidate as the election draws closer.
Moreover, it confirms a trend that everyone should have figured out long ago: the concerns of women voters cannot continue to be treated as secondary in any presidential election. “Women’s issues” encompass all kinds of political, social, and economic issues, most (arguably all) of which interact with each other in complex ways.
If you want to win women over, start presenting us with convincing arguments on a variety of topics. Those are the only “insights and stories” we want to hear, from either candidate.