Serena Freewomyn

Will Women Support Sarah Palin?

Filed By Serena Freewomyn | September 05, 2008 8:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics, The Movement
Tags: 2008 Election, Anna Greenberg, Sarah Palin, women voters, Women's Voices Women Vote Action Fund

Focus groups conducted this week by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and the Women's Voices Women Vote Action Fund have found that the GOP's nomination of Sarah Palin may have the intended effect with women voters. There were only two focus groups involved, so the report is certainly not conclusive.

But in a national survey of 1356 women - 1295 likely women voters - conducted between September 2-3 and focus groups conducted following Palin's acceptance speech by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research for WVWVAF, we found mixed results. Overall, while the selection of Palin is seen positively by women voters, it is also the case that her selection has given little lift to the Republican ticket and significant questions remain about her to be answered. Women voters - married and unmarried alike - were impressed with Palin's poise and confidence, but wonder what she stood for and how she would address America's most pressing problems.

Follow me after the jump for a more detailed summary of their findings.

  • After viewing the acceptance speech of the first female vice presidential candidate for the Republican party, there was no positive electoral movement toward the Republican ticket among either married or unmarried women in these groups. Some unmarried women moved toward the Republican ticket, but an equal number moved against McCain and Palin.
  • Fundamental to the unmarried women in these groups, however, she did not sufficiently address key issues in their lives. This is particularly true of the economy, where unmarried women claim to have heard almost nothing of relevance to their economic standing. One single woman said point-blank "I didn't get anything about the economy."
  • Palin did have some success. On a scale of 0 to 100, she improved her favorability scale roughly 10 points among both married and unmarried women. We also saw improvement in the number of women who believe she was ready to be vice president. Focus group comments suggest she connected with these voters in a way that made her seem authentic, independent and strong.
  • Her recitation of her experience and accomplishment failed to answer fundamental questions about her selection. In the discussion, many women, particularly unmarried women, just did not believe she qualified herself to be vice president or president. (These comments were often preceded by opinions on McCain's age and health).
  • This candidate provoked a fascinating discussion of gender roles and politics and the challenges this nominee faces. Many women, especially married women, openly questioned her ability to both serve and raise a family, particularly a family involved such a young, special-needs baby. These women acknowledged the obvious double standard ("we would not ask that if she were a man"), but the question lingered. Some even noted, "'let's face it, we (women) do the nurturing."

The Greenberg Rosner Group is saying these results are mixed, (which they are) but I think they also highlight some of what I was trying to get at in last week's post about Sarah Palin: McCain needs female voters and the GOP is hoping that Sarah Palin will deliver the goods. Ya'll got a little frazzled when I suggested that educated women would punch the chad for McCain. And while two focus groups are hardly a representative sample, it's enough for me to suggest that McCain & Co might be onto something.

This weekend I was talking to the most important woman I know - my mother. She is a life-long Republican, but she likes Hillary Clinton because my mom is also a nurse. Hillary's staunch support of health care speaks to my mom's daily experience. I once heard Gloria Steinem say that you could tell a Hillary supporter by her shoes - they're nurses' shoes, waitresses' shoes, and mill workers' shoes. My mom is now thinking about voting for John McCain because he picked a woman as his running mate. Are working class women idiots because they're looking for someone who speaks to their experience?

Like it or not, I think the rumor mill's scoop that Sarah Palin has a pregnant teenage daughter is going to help McCain, not hurt him. How many working class women in America have pregnant teenage daughters? A lot! The more the Democrats grasp at straws, the more desperate they seem. And a desperate party is about as attractive as a desperate prom date.

Bil asked me to give a "feminist angle" to this whole Sarah Palin thing. So here's my viewpoint (which I will preface by saying that not all feminists think about things the same way): I believe that feminism is ultimately about choice. And I get very frustrated by "professional feminists" who have a hard time grasping class politics. I'm a working class woman. Yes, I have white privilege, and I will concede that this counts for a lot in America. But I also tend to view everything from a position of class. There's something very disingenuous, in my opinion, about people who proclaim to know what's in my best interest, as if I am incapable of coming to the "correct" conclusion myself. At the end of the day, I don't find feminism useful if my mom can't understand it. My mom understands that women should receive equal pay for equal work. My mom understands that single mothers have a hard time making ends meet, even when they work themselves to the bone. My mom might not know the intricacies of Sarah Palin's politics, but that's ultimately not what matters here. What matters is that women like my mom are giving Sarah Palin a fair hearing, which is a lot more than I can say for the majority of died-in-the-wool Democrats I've talked to this week.

Final caveat: Just to be clear, I am not saying that I am voting for McCain and Palin, and I am not giving Palin a pass on the issues.

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Emily's List did another poll on women's opinions of Palin that you might want to check out. I think it's a bit early to start reporting poll results on Palin, but it's something.

You're absolutely right, though, discussions of policy aren't going to win this thing. And telling people what their best interests are is pretty offensive as well. Even though I personally feel that McCain/Palin would protect the best interests of about 1% of America, that doesn't mean that's the best strat to go with here.

No matter what we think about McCain and Palin, they're going to try just as hard as Obama to speak to voters' material problems. Whether their solutions will work or not is another question, but considering the way our democracy works, it doesn't matter all that much.

Alex, thanks for sharing the link to the EMILY'S List report. You're right, these poll results are early. It's going to be interesting to see how this continues to shake down.

I'd like to point out that when you state women will vote for Sarah Palin, you may want to preface that with SOME women.

I've talked to MY mother, a retired educator and dues paying member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. She, my sister, the various African-American women I've heard interviewed about it and I've talked to were offended by Palin.

We African-Americans operate under a different measuring stick in terms of what constitutes leadership. Issues matter to us, especially civil rights and economic issues.

Remember that for most of the primary season Barack Obama didn't have the overwhelming support he has now because in some quarters many of us didn't think he was 'Black enough'.

Sarah Palin isn't 'woman enough' to come clean about the fact she's on the wrong side of issues that matter to African-American women.

I think Peggy Noonan said it best..."political bullshit."

seriously, I think Palin will make some women happier pulling the lever for McCain but I don't think she's going to pull any Clinton voters to her.

I mean, she is in total opposition to everything Sen. Clinton stands for. Read Gloria Steinem's piece today in the LA Times.,0,7541303.story

Steinem writes, "To vote in protest for McCain/Palin would be like saying, "Somebody stole my shoes, so I'll amputate my legs."

No kidding.

Sara, thanks for sharing the link to the Steinem article. As usual, I agree with her.

I believe that feminism is ultimately about choice. And I get very frustrated by "professional feminists" who have a hard time grasping class politics. I'm a working class woman. Yes, I have white privilege, and I will concede that this counts for a lot in America. But I also tend to view everything from a position of class.

I think most Americans have a hard time grasping class politics. We are after all a classless society. That's why racial, ethnic, and religions politics work so well. Divide the people across distinctions that shouldn't matter so they don't notice distinctions that do matter.

There are though distinctions that transcend class. The most recent case in point being the 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling. And near and dear to more than a couple of folks around here; transgender veterans trying to secure appropriate and respectful treatment at VA healthcare facilities - the great equalizer of admirals and privates.

Taken in totality Governor Palin does not speak all that well to working women's (or men for that matter) experiences. I don't think we can separate her experience from the intricacies of her politics. Dyed-in-the-wool democrats have to highlight the disconnect between the two at every opportunity. They need to do it without insulting the intelligence and dignity of working women, but it needs to be done.

I understand what you're saying about what the GOP needs to with regard to the woman's vote. I think your analysis is pretty much spot on. What I don't get is why it is working. Of course that may be because I don't get my news from the television, and I think we put way to much stock in authenticity. Authenticity is fine in a hunting dog or a lover, but it is nothing more than airbrushed vapor in a politician. So I guess my thing is more of a media issue than a feminist issue.

For what its worth, I like your writing better when it comes from a practical standpoint than a theoretical one. The bit about Palin's daughter is well worth repeating.

I understand what you're saying about what the GOP needs to with regard to the woman's vote. I think your analysis is pretty much spot on. What I don't get is why it is working.

Greg, I think if the Democrats understood that, they'd be a lot further along than they are now.

Sadly, I'm hearing lots of reports from here in Indiana of Republican women who supported Hillary and were warming to Obama after his speech who have now jumped on board the McCain express because of Sarah Palin.

Like it or not, the strategy is working.