Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Gender Gap

As the race now stands between Romney and Obama it is, in some ways, a tie--but in many ways, it's not. Consider a recent change in polling:
USA Today Washington bureau chief Susan Page, with whom I sometimes team up on PBS’ “NewsHour,” noted in a recent piece about the March 20-26 Gallup/USA Today Swing States Poll that Obama leads Romney in 10 crucial states by 9 points, a dramatic reversal from Romney’s 2-point lead a month ago. (Gallup’s Frank Newport also writes about the data in his blog, “Polling Matters.”)
The biggest change came among women under 50,” Page wrote with her usual accuracy. “In mid-February, just under half of those voters supported Obama. Now more than six in 10 do while Romney’s support among them has dropped by 14 points, to 30 percent.”
Romney leads amongst men--but not by as much:
Obama has returned to a single-digit lead vs. Romney in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, 51-44 percent among registered voters, after a virtual dead heat last month. That includes Obama’s largest margin to date among women, 57-38 percent. He trails by 8 points among men.
Fox News calls it the other way: "Obama Struggles to Draw In Male Voters"
In a Fox News Poll released last month, only 43 percent of men said they approved of the job Obama was doing -- 51 percent disapproved. The numbers practically flipped among women.

Drilling deeper into the numbers, the poll showed 59 percent of men disapproved of Obama's handling of the economy, compared with 50 percent of women who felt the same way. On the deficit, disapproval among men was 61 percent; among women, 53 percent.
But one poll has shown Romney's male-lead shrinking too:
Clearly, Romney can’t win the White House if he is winning only 40 percent of female voters nationally or 36 percent of female voters from the 10 swing states. But it’s equally true that Romney can’t defeat Obama if the Republican carries men by only 3 points (as he does in Gallup’s most recent national poll) or by a single point (as he does in the most recent Swing States survey).
From Hot Air Comments:
As long as these idiot women read Cosmo and People instead of RCP, The Times of London, The Economist, or even libtwaddle WaPo, they’re never going to be informed enough to vote for a conservative.
What Does It Mean?
The canonical Republican talking point is that this is due to the imaginary War On Women that Team Obama (with the help of the liberal media) have managed to persuade women is being waged against them. This is being done (in the theory) explicitly to "distract" from the economy.

Yes, for real--that's the picture (more or less) that Team Obama is painting.

Is This For Real!?
Not only is it "for real" (as in: Team Obama are really saying there's a war on women) but the facts are even worse: whether or not there is a Republican war on women is irrelevant.
Or maybe that's Irrelephant?
Why? Doesn't it matter if there's a "real" war on women or not? The answer is that the people who get to decide ... are the women. And not the conservative women, either--the independent voter women. Is this, you know, fair? I can't answer that--but I can tell you that if you want the world to be "fair" go ask your mom (she'll tell you). If you want to "legislate fairness"? Oughtn't you be registered as a Democrat? (Ha!)

And if you think it's just being "spun" that way--that women are being misled? Maybe. Depending on the specific instance or specific issue or specific speech in question it certainly could/is being spun to maximal political advantage.

But again, that's irrelevant. Here is what you're up against:
Danielle Deaver was 22 weeks pregnant when her water broke and doctors gave her a devastating prognosis: With undeveloped lungs, the baby likely would never survive outside the womb, and because all the amniotic fluid had drained, the tiny growing fetus slowly would be crushed by the uterus walls.

Just one month earlier, Nebraska had enacted the nation's first fetal pain legislation, banning abortions after 20 weeks gestation. So the Deavers had to wait more than a week to deliver baby Elizabeth, who died after just 15 minutes.
"They could do nothing to make it better but tell us to wait, which made it worse," Danielle Deaver said. "Every time I felt movement, I was terrified she was hurting and trying to push the uterus away from her."
On Dec. 8, Daniel delivered 1-pound, 10-ounce Elizabeth, who survived only 15 minutes outside the womb.
Julie Schmit-Albin, of Nebraska Right to Life, told the AP that the baby's death was better than a painful abortion: "We acknowledge the tragedy that occurs with a poor prenatal diagnosis for the baby. But isn't it more humane for the baby to die in a loving manner with comfort care and in the arms of her parents than by the intentional painful death through abortion?
You can read another pro-life account here:
Their complaints about not being able to have an abortion strike me as odd for several reasons. In their interview, at 6:00, they complain that they wanted an abortion so they could start the grieving process eight days sooner. I just can’t imagine how actively participating in the killing your baby in the womb a few days earlier could possibly facilitate grieving.
Here is why this makes the "Imaginary (or not) War on Women" irrelevant:

  1. The majority of women feel some access to abortion in some conditions is justified. Statistically women also lead men in preferring that (some) abortion be legal. Taken as a whole, that makes this a "woman's issue" (combined with, you know, the fact that women are the ones who get pregnant).
  2. The GOP Base's position that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances (save, perhaps, the life of the mother being at risk) is contradictory to the majority numbers. Any exceptions granting abortion are (rightly) seen as a compromise position with the GOP Base. This is okay for conservative women--but for moderate / independent women it is an electoral risk.
  3. The situation we see in the story above, while not even remotely stereotypical, is horrific. It is tragic and gripping. This is the kind of story that can go viral--it is the kind of story women (especially pregnant ones) will read and rightly be concerned about (about complications during pregnancy--not necessarily the legal implications or laws).
  4. Women will, rightly, see what was legally mandated in that circumstance as the intended outcome of the GOP's law. It was not a miss-application of the law: none of the law's defenders I read said "Whoa, hey--it wasn't supposed to work that way."
  5. Thus, without any spin, whether you agree with it or not, this is a losing proposition for a pretty big set of women voters. 
Thinking otherwise is putting your head in the sand.

What Do I Think?
When Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a 'slut' he was, in fact, referring to a mode of behavior. This is not the same as, say, using the n-word which is referring to a fact of one's birth. Right? It's totally different. Right?


Women don't like the s-word being thrown around (especially by men with 20MM+ listeners) any more than black people like Don Imus using racial terms on a women's basketball team. Is this fair? If you are asking the question you are already losing. The fact is that when Limbaugh broke out the 'slut' he hurt the crap out of "his side." In fact, 'slut' is even worse than Maher's use of the c-word on Sarah Palin. Why? There are a lot of reasons (such as who Limbaugh is compared to who Maher is) but mostly? Women have to contend with potentially being called sluts all the time. Every time they get dressed--they have to do a mental check: does that make me look slutty.

Does this dress make me look like a political tool?
Compare to men who have one axis and the calculation is pretty simple:

Sure, women may get called the c-word. It happens and it is certainly more vulgar and as one-for-one more offensive. But I'm gonna postulate that the every-day issue of "slut" (or bitch) is, by way of being an every-day issue, more disturbing to a large swath of women a what Maher called Palin (note: I am not defending Maher here at all--but if you are wondering how there could be more outcry over "slut" consider that there are not take-back-the-word rallies around the c-word).

How does this relate to the abortion question? Simple: there are things--a few things (such as denying access to abortions in a traumatic situation ... or calling women sluts from a relative position of power) that are going to alarm women who are not already part of the GOP Base. This does not require duplicitous spin on the part of Team Obama, the media or anyone else. Simply put, there are some positions that are going to lose the majority of women and the GOP has flirted with a couple of those.

Of course Team Obama (and the media) will amplify this as much as possible--but the underlying problem still remains. Your defense against this is to simply moderate yourself on those positions. Limbaugh should not have called Fluke a slut and allowing couples with a baby in extreme distress to make a personal choice around abortion seems in keeping with what mainstream, generally pro-life people want.

In short, you do not need a real or fake War On Women to have a situation that (rightly) concerns or upsets many women who might otherwise count themselves as the GOP voting bloc. Thinking otherwise--thinking that the reason for the numbers above has no grounding in events or positions or is merely the result of "stupid women" is willfully blind.

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