This month marked the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment, which granted women (albeit only white women) the right to vote. In honor of this milestone in our democracy, the AAPC reached out to top pollsters for insights on how female voters are shaping the 2020 elections. Ashlee Rich Stephenson, Vice President and National Political Director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Celinda Lake, President at Lake Research Partners, shared their analysis.
On the 2020 Presidential Election:
Stephenson: While the political environment continues to be unpredictable and at times simply turbulent, there remains consistency in the intensity among female voters relating to enthusiasm to cast a ballot in 2020. A recent Economist/YouGov survey reported that a majority of women (53%) are “extremely enthusiastic” to vote for president this November, compared to slightly less than half of men (47%). In this same study, a higher percentage of women as compared to men rank ten issues tested as “very important” to them, further underscoring heightened intensity among this majority voting bloc.
Lake: In this election, the gender gap has been quite dramatic, with male voters nationwide statistically tied in their choice between Biden and Trump, but women voters nationwide clearly siding with Biden. In a close race, women voters will determine the election. Democrats need to win women by more than they lose men by, but women are not monolithic. White non-college women trend toward saying they will vote for Trump, while college educated white women trend toward voting for Biden. Women of color are voting overwhelmingly Democratic, as are millennial women. Seniors are voting Democratic for President, and Biden is clearly better with seniors than other Democrats since before 2008.
On the issues:
Lake: One of the biggest issues disproportionately affecting women voters during this time is childcare, as women are having to take on more work than ever to balance their careers and their children throughout the pandemic. School closures are also top of mind for women voters in this time. For many swing voter women, there is a strong view that this election is more important now than ever, and important for their families and communities. The key swing group of women is “guardian women,” who are most focused on security. Leadership and character also matter for women. Women are increasingly turned off by Trump’s character which they tend to think of as an idiosyncratic personality but now see as a governing issue.
Stephenson: By way of issues, contests up and down the ballot will be won by the ability to communicate solutions that address the economy, health care and safety relating to each. We also continue to see that in this environment women are motivated by solutions and results. Those running the most sophisticated campaigns are therefore addressing ways in which they have delivered for their constituents, particularly through the coronavirus pandemic. Look no further than advertising from incumbents in the toughest Senate contests this cycle. The best campaigns are directly addressing female voters’ greatest concerns about jobs, small businesses, the coronavirus and health care with a facts-first approach and thoughtful tone. While few things are certain in 2020, it is clear that this cycle will yield another year of exceptional post-election analysis to discern trends among the powerful female electorate.
Lake: Turnout and persuasion of women are key to this election. In 2016 there were over 43 million women who didn’t vote including over 14 million millennial women and over 16 million women of color. The COVID-19 pandemic may have particular impacts on women’s participation. In 2020 we need to get out the vote.