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The public policy blog of the American Enterprise Institute
Is there a newspaper, television station, or social media site that isn’t running story after story about women in the 2012 election? If not, we haven’t seen it. The twitter universe exploded after the debate with tweets about the candidates’ exchanges. Within hours of the second debate, Barack Obama’s campaign had a video up about the president’s commitment to women, highlighting Mitt Romney’s awkward responses to debate questions. Recent polls have shown Romney doing better among women, but many still show Barack Obama leading among them. What’s going on?
In our article on the past, present, and future of the women’s vote, we provide some explanations for all the attention being given the women’s vote. First of all, there are more women than men, so they have more power at the ballot box–this year, it’s possible that 10 million more women than men will cast votes.
Though women tend to be more Democratic and men tend to be more Republican, it’s wrong to paint women as a solidly progressive voting bloc concerned mostly about abortion and contraception. A quick look at the Romney and Obama campaign stores is proof that these candidates are reaching out to two distinctly different groups of women. While Romney’s store offers women’s items emblazoned with “moms drive the economy,” Obama’s focuses on a woman’s right to choose. Romney and the Republicans appeal to married women; Obama and the Democrats to young, single women (who tend to be a more unreliable bloc at the polls). Suburban women are important to both campaigns, though, since more than half of all Americans live in the suburbs.
Women are often late deciders, and this is another reason why both campaigns are working nonstop to win women. Most voters have made up their minds by this point, but some women remain on the fence. In several polls taken after the first presidential debate, women migrated to Mitt, bringing the race much closer than it had been.
But it’s not just the presidency on the line—down ballot contests matter, too. More Democratic women than Republican women are running in Senate and gubernatorial contests. Our research of past races shows that more female voters are voting for Democratic women today than in the past, and winning their votes could help to keep the Senate in Democratic hands.
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