Women narrowing gap with men at voting booths

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Want to know which candidate a woman is likely to support for president?

Look at her ring finger.

It may sound like the start of a bad joke, but most married women voted for President Bush in 2004. By nearly 2-to-1, unmarried women supported John Kerry.

The "marriage gap" -- the difference in the vote between married and unmarried women -- is 38 percentage points, according to recent aggregated USA Today/CNN/Gallup polls. In contrast, the famous "gender gap," the difference in the vote between men and women, is 11 points.

A Washington, D.C.-based non-partisan organization called Women's Voices Women Vote claims it has identified women, especially those between 25 and 40 years old, as one of the fastest-growing large demographics in the nation today.

Cape County Clerk Rodney Miller said there may be a trend nationwide, but locally he has no figures to validate it. He said total voter registration in the county is currently 49,889, but due to a computer glitch, the breakdown in numbers of female and male voters is not yet available.

"I don't doubt there are statewide get-out-the-vote organizations springing up now," he said. "Most every federal election you get special-interest groups that want their say at the polls, and we have a federal election coming in November."

Brenda Woemmel, chair of the Democrat Central Committee of Cape County Democrats, said there are probably new statewide organizations geared toward getting more women to the polls this November, but one well established nationwide group -- Emily's List -- is definitely making the effort to get out the women vote.

"I belong to Emily's List and there are local chapters in Missouri," said Woemmel. "The closest one to us is in St. Louis. Its concept is to work to support women candidates and get others registered to vote."

Woemmel said a growing number of women are getting involved in the political process. She said women age 60-plus have an established voting pattern -- they either voter or they don't and the numbers don't change much. But, she said, younger women are on the move.

"I think women between the ages 25 and 40 have an increasing amount of interest in politics because they feel their lives being touched personally," she said. "What gets their attention right now are the pocketbook issues. The price of gas might be going down now, but what will it be Nov. 8?

"Single moms, working or not, are feeling the financial crunch so more are going to vote."

Cindie Jeter Yanow, president of the Cape Girardeau County Republican Women's Club, agrees that women, especially younger ones, are heading to the voting booths in greater numbers. She said she saw a surge in club membership prior to the 2004 elections, and that surge continues.

"The Bush reelection campaign really brought them out, and the trend has continued over the past two years among unmarried and working and married and working moms," said Yanow. "Our club here had been stagnant for many years, but not anymore."

Yanow said women ages 20 to 40 are increasingly registering to vote. She cites economic issues as a major factor, but asserts that the personality of candidates also play a part.

"I think Bush was elected and reelected because a lot of women liked his personality. And Bill Clinton had a more likeable personality than Bob Dole, so Clinton took the majority of the women vote in '96."

Yanow said the November elections are already causing negative campaigning, but she thinks women will once again galvanize in support of their candidates.

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