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In late February, Jeremy Pressman from the University of Connecticut and Erica Chenoweth at the University of Denver, writing in the popular political science blog the Monkey Cage, reported that between 1.8 and 2.6 million people participated in the January 2018 Women’s March. What’s driving the crowds? In the latest edition of AEI’s Political Report, we provide some answers.
In January, Gallup updated its battery of questions about satisfaction with different aspects of life. Fifty-eight percent said they were satisfied with the position of women in the nation, but 37 percent, the highest percentage since Gallup first asked this question, said they were dissatisfied. The growing negativity was driven by Democratic men and women; Republicans didn’t change their views.
It is hard to pinpoint a single reason for the change, but many polls show that Democrats, and particularly Democratic women, are deeply dissatisfied with gender discrimination, responses to sexual harassment, and with President Donald Trump.
Looking at gender discrimination, 63 percent nationally told Pew Research Center in 2017 that there is a lot or some discrimination against women today. Nearly 8 in 10 Democrats, 78 percent, gave that response. Fifty percent nationally told Pew in another survey that the country had not gone far enough in giving women equal rights with men. Sixty-nine percent of Democrats and 26 percent of Republicans gave that response (54 percent of Republicans said it had been about right).
In terms of sexual harassment, 38 percent of Democrats in a January ABC News/Washington Post poll compared to 16 percent of Republicans said recent attention on this issue had not gone far enough. Nearly half, 49 percent, of Republicans compared to 23 percent of Democrats said it had gone too far.
Women have been more critical than men of Donald Trump’s performance as president, his personality, and his policies. They have given Trump a lower approval rating throughout his presidency. In Gallup’s assessment of Trump’s first year, 33 percent of women (an annual average) compared to 45 percent of men approved of the job he was doing. In a February Quinnipiac University poll of registered voters, 42 percent of women compared to 62 percent of men approved of his handling of the economy. Both men and women gave Trump lower marks on handling foreign policy. Only 29 percent of women approved compared to 46 percent of men. In an NBC News/Wall Street Journal question from January, 58 percent of women (compared to 46 percent of men) said they didn’t like him personally and they disapproved of many of this policies. Only a quarter of women in a new Quinnipiac poll thought Trump respected women as much as men. And nearly 6 in 10 women, 59 percent, said he is biased against them. Women are more Democratic than men, and their antipathy to Trump is fueling their views about the 2018 contests. Most women (56 percent in a February Quinnipiac poll) said they wanted to see the Democrats control Congress. Thirty-two percent preferred the GOP.
What will these poll responses mean in November? In another article, Pressman and Chenoweth cited a paper by AEI economist Stan Veuger and two colleagues, who argued in the Quarterly Journal of Economics that higher levels of participation in Tea Partiers protests produced higher GOP turnout in the 2010 midterms and GOP victories. Will a higher degree of dissatisfaction in the polls and robust activism on the ground produce more Democratic victories in 2018? We know a large number of women have expressed an interest in running. Filing deadlines have closed in only a handful of states thus far, so we don’t know at this point how many women will actually run. It’s a sure bet, though, that more Democratic women will run in 2018 than GOP ones, and the early indications are that it could be a good night for many of them.
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