December 22, 2004


Mind the Gender Gap: Why Democrats are losing women at an alarming rate. (Anna Greenberg, 12.06.04, American Prospect)

The erosion of support for Democratic candidates among women represents a political transformation from a time when voters, both working class and affluent, voted in ways consistent with their economic interests. Today, despite the economic interests, socially conservative, white, blue-collar women have moved increasingly into the Republican camp, primarily around social and cultural issues that include perceived moral decline, abortion and reproductive health, challenges to women’s traditional roles in society and family, and gay rights. This is not a recent development; it is the culmination of the increasing polarization around cultural issues that began in the 1970s and intensified in the 1990s.

In this election, this trend proved true even among those blue-collar women voters who seemed most likely to vote for Kerry. White, older, blue-collar women are among the most economically insecure in our country, with deep concerns about health-care costs and retirement security. Those and other domestic topics dominated the campaign in the first part of 2004, at least in campaign advertising in the battleground states. During this period (February to April), Kerry led with white older women by an average of 7 points and white, older, non-college women by 2 points. By election day, Kerry lost white older women by 7 points and white, older, non-college women by 18 points. Even more striking, there was a 14-point gap between white, older, non-college women’s identification with the Democratic Party (4-point Democratic disadvantage) and their support for Kerry (18-point disadvantage).

What happened over those months? Kerry lost ground with older, white, blue-collar women when the national discussion moved from health care, retirement, and other domestic priorities to security, the war on terrorism, and the war in Iraq. Starting with a Democratic convention focused on security and military experience, economic issues were largely absent from the national scene. In the absence of a real economic discussion, these voters swung to Bush as he tapped into their social conservatism, their support for his approach to the war on terrorism, and their admiration of his religious faith.

The question Democrats seem to be asking themselves is: if economics is as central to our identity as human beings as the Left insists it is and if their economic prescriptions are as obviously superior to Republicans' as they insist they are, then how are voters so easily fooled into voting against their own self-interest? Their answer, almost inevitably, is: people are so stupid they don't even deserve our help.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 22, 2004 7:25 PM

If the gender gap has ever been an issue and the GOP wins the election, aren't the Democrats the ones with the real problem i.e. not winning enough male votes? Don't the losers have more problems than the winners?

Does anyone ever go to a coach after he wins the Super Bowl and say 'Well, Coach, your team obviously has severe problems and your gameplan doesn't make any sense. What do you intend to do about it? Shouldn't you be more like the team you just beat in the Super Bowl?'

Posted by: Bart at December 23, 2004 6:21 AM

All these discussions by liberals about how voters aren't voting their economic interests are beginning sound like - "why can't we buy their votes anymore?"

Posted by: Brandon at December 23, 2004 8:52 AM

Women may be more receptive to the Democrats' "nanny state" politics, but those women also know all those wonderful federal programs won't do much good if they and their families are reduced to random body parts because the U.S. wasn't serious in preventing another terrorist attack.

Perhaps the TV networks' ban-in-all-but-name in showing the most horrid images of Sept. 11 will allow memories to fade enough by 2008 so that women will start putting the economy back over natioal security when they vote. But given the votes on the war on terror being cast by Ms. Clinton, I think the smarter wing of the Democratic Party knows they have to change their image towards a stronger defense, not towards bigger and better freebies from Uncle Sugar, in order to have a chance the next time around.

Posted by: John at December 23, 2004 8:54 AM

They continue to assume that people would be better off economically under their policies.

It isn't true.

Posted by: Arnold Williams at December 23, 2004 12:19 PM

They don't even bother with policies any more, but just assume that voters will believe that the Democrats are better on the economy, despite the lack of any evidence either that Democrats are better at the economy or that people believe they are.

Posted by: Bart at December 23, 2004 8:11 PM

Getting back to the gender business, I suggest that women are joining the American mainstream for two reasons. First, they are culturally shifting to the male idea. In part this is because of medical science having made biological human reproduction less critical, in part because of an increased female presence is sports, business and the military. You could almost say that more and more women are becoming White men, just as Blacks and Latinos are becoming White men.

Another reason is that the party of minorities has allowed itself to become the party of queers. The Left dreamed of enlisting women in a grand coalition of schoolteachers, Negroes and Homosexuals, but it didn't work out that way. Contrary to what had been hoped, women are kind of conservative about things like marriage and children. These are, after all, their things. On more than one occasion a women has told me that, while we men were surprised that this or that acquaintance moved in with his pal, Bruce, of perhaps came down with The Virus, the "girls" had always known.

Posted by: Lou Gots at December 24, 2004 12:00 AM

Polling data indicates that it has to do with the WOT. Women are far more risk averse and security conscious than men, and are far more affected by a perceived change in security than men are. 9/11 shook them a lot worse.

Posted by: Bart at December 25, 2004 11:31 AM