Karlyn Bowman, a wise demographer and student of American politics, offered the Kirkpatrick Society some insights into why women are not better represented in politics. Surveys of potential candidates have shown that women believe the system is biased against them. They are also more risk averse than men, and more repelled by negative campaigning. In 2001 and in a follow-up study ten years later, women reported that they were more concerned about the potential loss of privacy and family time than men. Doesn't sound like the patriarchy at work, does it?
Bowman cited another study that examined this apparently widespread belief that women have it worse in politics than men. Jody Newman assembled a huge database on candidates for state legislatures, governorships, and House and Senate races. She concluded that at every level, women are just as likely as men to be victorious.
There's a footnote though. Democratic women candidates do better than Republican women at attracting the votes of women. Among 24 Senate and gubernatorial races in the 1980s that featured a woman, only one Republican woman received a larger share of the women's vote than her opponent. Since 2000, in only four races did Republican women get more female than male support (and two of those were for Maine moderate Olympia Snowe).
Still, Bowman reminds us that 2012 ought not to become calcified as the "free contraceptives" year. She's found no evidence that birth control was a big factor in the race. Nor was it a victory for the "Julia" narrative -- the Obama campaign cartoon that depicted a prototypical American woman being cared for cradle to grave by the state. Mitt Romney won white women by 56 to 42 percent. He won 53 percent of married women. It was the lopsided majorities of black (96), Asian (66), and Hispanic (87) women who gave the election to Obama.
I believe that women -- and the country -- would be far better off if all Americans married before having children, stayed married wherever possible, and if at least one parent held down a job. Then again, I'm a bad woman.
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