A male graduate student was recently arguing in an intellectual setting that if women had the right to vote before 1920, certain social issues would have been settled decades earlier regardless of ideological considerations. He was making the point that as a general rule, women tend to be more pragmatic and less ideological than men are. They go for what works, not necessarily what is ideologically relevant. He may be right, when one considers recent data on women voting patterns.
In 2008, presidential candidate Obama won the elections with a whopping 56 percent of the women vote. Four years before, in 2004, even though presidential candidate John Kerry lost the elections, he still accumulated the vote of 62 percent of unmarried women, and was only stopped in Ohio by George W. Bush.
In 2010, the Republican Party recaptured the US House of Representatives with 49 percent of the women votes. Democrats fell short that time by just one percentage point; they earned 48 percent of the women voice. That very slim, single-point margin helped make or enlarge the difference between winners and losers during these midterm elections. This year’s women vote may prove once again to be pivotal in terms of who wins the presidency.
As of late August 2012, Obama’s favorability among women was higher than that of Romney, sometimes by margin as slim as 5 percent, other times by margin as high as 11 percent. There are a few issues at play here, which is why the women vote is so crucial.
Women represent 53 percent of the electorate. They are less ideologically driven, although they traditionally favor democrats over republicans. This is particularly true for unmarried women. There are also issues that are important to certain groups of women, sometimes seemingly even trumping economic matters. Democrats seem to get that point and driving it.
When Todd Akin, a Republican Congressman, senatorial candidate for the state of Missouri, made the recent comment suggesting a difference between legitimate and perhaps not-so-legitimate rapes, he opened a can of worms that his democratic rival wants to keep in his political plate. Indeed, Senator Claire McCaskill lost no time exploiting this gaffe, raising money feverishly with new hopes that she might keep her senate seat as a democrat. Should she win in November, this will be one more proof of the importance of the women vote.
The Republican Party’s pro-life position may not be as much an anathema to women as their party platform suggests. After all, the most recent Gallup Poll clearly shows that for the first time in decades, more women are pro-life than pro-choice. However, establishing differences between supposed kinds of rape rather than simply characterizing the act as vile may have women perceive the Party as at best insensitive to some of their key issues.
With on their hands, an at best sluggish economic recovery, President Obama and the Democratic Party may have no choice but to trumpet the sounds of social issues that resonate loudly in the ears of key and important constituents. This may be one sure way to win in November. Regardless of the circumstances, unless Republicans are able to drive the debate in the direction of the economy and in a way that is clearly favorable to women, their hope to recapture the White House in November will be dashed.