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Jewish World Review Nov. 7, 2000 / 9 Mar-Cheshvan 5761

Betsy Hart

Betsy Hart
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Consumer Reports

What do women really want? -- TODAY will will bring an end to the most feminized Presidential campaign in American history. Al Gore and George Bush have gone after women's vote like dogs after a fox in a gauzy campaign of staged kisses, feel-good Oprah Winfrey appearances and "compassionate comservative" themes. Each campaign has tirelessly asked itself "what do women want?" And Tuesday's results, including what appears to be the ever-present gender-gap, will be poured over for the answers.

The common definition for the gender-gap is the extent to which women vote more Democratic than men particularly when it comes to their presidential picks. As of this writing, the Gallup polling organization shows Al Gore with a 7 point lead over Bush among women. (Though other polls show it closer.)

Of course, that's dwarfed by the gender-gap Al Gore has with men, or the fact that Bush is some 17 points ahead of Gore on that score. That tends to get far less attention partly because we're programmed to wring our hands more over whatever the gals are up to, partly because women tend to vote in slightly higher numbers than men, and partly because when it comes to Presidential polititcs, women have been a more malleable group. Whereas men consistently trend more Republican than Democratic, women twice voted in the majority for Ronald Reagan and then twice voted more for Bill Clinton than his Republican opponents.

So, what do women want? To find the answers, one has to look more closely at what kind of women vote for each candidate. Based on past elections, it's easy to predict that exit polls on Tuesday will show that married women pretty evenly split their votes between the two Presidential candidates or voted in a slight majority for Bush, while single women overwhelmingly preferred Gore.

After all, exit polls showed that in 1992 married women voted in almost equal numbers for George Bush and Bill Clinton. But when it came to single women, 53% voted for Clinton while only 31% voted for Bush. In 1996, married women came close to splitting their votes for the candidates, but among their single sisters an overwhelming 62% voted for Clinton and only 28% for Bob Dole.

So, this isn't a gender-gap as much as a "marriage-gap." (Men have a "marriage-gap" too, but it's much narrower.) Perhaps that's why the issues that conventional wisdom and a gullible press say should motivate women voters, actually don't. Abortion is a non-starter. Women are evenly divided between the candidates in the polling on this issue, and in fact among the small percentage of women who say abortion is one of their very top issues, the pro-life position gets a slight majority. The "equal-pay" issue is a yawner for most women too. By and large, they are getting equal-pay for equal-work and they know it.

The truth is, explains political analyst and National Review Washington editor Kate O'Beirne, "women are not looking up at the 'glass-ceiling' nearly as much as they are looking down at the safety net." Polls consistently show that women are more concerned than men about education, government spending on programs for the poor and needy, and issues like social security and medicare. While a recent poll showed that 58 percent of all Americans said they would prefer "smaller government and fewer services to bigger government with more services" fully 70 percent of men agreed with that analysis -- while only 48 percent of women did.

Does all this mean that women are just more "compassionate" than men? No, only that they sense they are more vulnerable. And therein may lie the answer for the marriage-gap. Those women who are not married, or who are but have come to see marriage as the unreliable institution it often is, may be more likely to feel exposed, at-risk, and in need of a long-term provider. Enter Uncle Sam as the "man" in their lives - the ultimate Alpha Male. A role the government has been insidiously seeking for decades. So, it's little wonder that today Al Gore's message of "I will make sure government takes care of you and your kids" is so much more successful with women than with men.

Alas, it appears today that that's what too many women have come to want.

JWR contributor Betsy Hart, a frequent commentator on CNN and the Fox News Channel, can be reached by clicking here.


10/24/00: Spare the rod ...
10/19/00: Gore is a liar --- period
10/12/00: Making the case for marriage
09/28/00: "Mommy, what's abortion?"
09/20/00: Gay righters no longer seek just tolerance but endorsement
09/14/00: The stupidity of smart growth
09/07/00: It takes more than a kiss
08/30/00: Helping out at school is more than an obligation
08/24/00: Family time comes far down the summer schedule
08/16/00: A tale of two wives
08/09/00: The Brady Bill isn't achieving its aim
08/01/00: Attention feminists: How to really keep our daughters safe
07/25/00: Everything is protective: the parents, the gear, the age
07/18/00: Say it ain't so, Ann
07/11/00: Limiting a child's choices
07/06/00: Accounting for your health
06/21/00: It's a bad time to be a boy in America
06/13/00: The state of our unions
06/02/00: Federalizing care of kids
05/17/00: The natural food threat
05/09/00: To stop gun violence, keep families intact
05/03/00: Pass the fat, please
04/25/00: Something just for boys
04/18/00: When toleration goes too far
04/10/00: Women warriors
04/05/00: Confessions of a soccer mom
03/30/00: Getting an education about schools
03/22/00: If you're a parent, act like one!
03/14/00: Not child advocates, but self-advocates
03/06/00: McCain not what he seemed at first
02/29/00: An effective answer to social problems
02/22/00: The feminists' newest target: Toys
02/06/00: Harassing the harassers
01/31/00: It doesn't take a village to raise a child --- it takes a scheduler
01/25/00: Psuedo science and global warming
01/18/00: Socially responsible nonsense
01/10/00: Monica may be onto something
12/27/99: Sometimes it matters quite a lot what government thinks
12/17/99: Teens have no inherent 'right to privacy'
12/10/99: Buying a minivan and tossing the SUV
12/03/99: On the mommy track
11/05/99:The waste of recycling
11/01/99: Welcome to Harvard pre-school
10/22/99: No disaster for women that Dole is out
10/19/99: 'Humanitarian' hypocrites
10/15/99: On a first-name basis with a three-year-old

© 2000, Scripps Howard News Service