Why Women Matter This Election

Posted: Aug 23, 2012 12:01 AM
Why Women Matter This Election
In politics, where there are more men than women in elected positions, it's easy to get the impression that men matter most. You see them on TV, see their pictures in the paper, hear them pontificating on the issues on TV and radio.

So it may surprise you to learn that women matter more than might be evident. Why? They outvote men.

In 2008, 66 percent of women voted versus 62 percent of men. Women voted for Barack Obama over Sen. John McCain by 56 percent to 43 percent, while men were almost evenly split between the candidates at 49 percent to 48 percent.

Four years ago, almost 10 million more women than men voted -- 70.4 million women compared with 60.7 million men, according to the United States Census Bureau.

The magic number of Electoral College votes needed to win is 270. Many of the states are considered safe for either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. The states that might go to either party are considered battleground states.

In the battleground states, women outvoted men in 2008.

Women made up 54 percent of the total votes in 2008 in the battleground states of Michigan, North Carolina, Virginia and Missouri. Combined, these states represent 54 electoral votes.

Women comprised 52 percent of voters in 2008 for Ohio (18 electoral votes) and Nevada (six electoral votes). In Florida, where 29 electoral votes are a stake, 53 percent of the votes came from women in 2008.

Based on these data, women matter.

What issues do women most care about?

Based on the media coverage this past week, and Democrats claiming that Republicans are waging a "war on women," one might conclude that birth control and abortion are the most important issues on women's minds. But wait -- let's look at the data.

According to a survey by Pew Research Center, more women (88 percent) said that the economy was very important. This was higher than any other issue. The economy was most often cited by men, as well, with 86 percent saying it was very important (survey conducted April 4-15, of 3,008 adults, with a sampling error of plus or minus 2.1 points).

Interesting that women, more than men, thought the economy was very important. But not surprising if you think about whom you know. Is it more likely that women or men pay the household bills?

Who most often has to figure out how to stretch a dollar earned farther and farther as grocery prices and gas prices rise higher and higher? Who most often chooses to forgo items to make sure that their children have the food that they need, the school supplies required to succeed?

The issues most often cited as very important by women after the economy were jobs (86 percent), health care (80 percent), education (79 percent) and the budget deficit (72 percent).

Of the 18 issues included in the survey, abortion ranked 15th, with 44 percent of women saying it was very important. Birth control ranked 17th, with 40 percent of women saying it was very important.

Women are more likely than men to pay the household bills, acting as their families' chief financial officers. They also act as the chief medical officers, controlling $2 of every $3 spent on health care. This might explain why more women (80 percent) than men (69 percent) indicated that health care was very important to their vote. Women, more than men, control the decisions for how the dollars are spent for health care.

This same survey noted that men supported presumed GOP candidate Mitt Romney over Obama (50 percent to 44 percent), while women supported Obama over Romney (53 percent to 40 percent).

This juxtaposition of very important issues and candidate preference is perplexing. President Obama has had four years to address the issues of the economy, jobs and health care, and these issues have not been resolved. The economy is stuck in an anemic recovery, sputtering forward slowly but not surely. According to Gallup, 17 percent of our workforce is underemployed. This represents people who are either unemployed or working part-time, when they would like to be working full-time. This is a vast natural resource that we need to be able to tap to grow our economy.

This fall, women need to understand that, while men might be more visible in the political public arena, women are more likely to vote. And, based on the 2008 experience, they will likely make up of the majority of the voters in the battleground states.

If Republicans want to win this fall, they will need to clearly communicate to women why their candidate is the best candidate to address the very important issues that women care about.

It's the economy; it's jobs. Without a robust economy and without jobs, it's hard for anyone to get ahead.