It all comes back to “old, white men.”
In preparation for what they expect to be a “historic” 2012 election, EMILY’s List — self-described as the largest financial resource for pro-choice female Democratic candidates — on Wednesday unveiled research on female voters’ perception of Washington and the coming election.
“For Democrats to win this year it is about women voters,” EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schirock said, noting that EMILY’s List has spent over a decade researching and reacting to the concerns of women voters.
“The 2012 election cycle has been rightfully identified as turning on the votes of women, and EMILY’s List is focused on what motivates this key section of the electorate,” she explained.
The organization’s targeted online focus group discussions — which honed in on independent, blue/pink collar, non-evangelical women voters in swing states — found that, like a majority of Americans, most women say they are more interested in job creation and the economy than issues like birth control.
According to the women surveyed by EMILY’s List and Democratic pollster Lisa Grove, many feel that Washington is “out of touch” and “broken.”
“They feel let down and left behind by our nation’s leaders,” Grove said. “They think D.C. is broken, it’s overly partisan. They talk about special interests, lack of compromise and importantly a sense that the folks representing them in Congress and the Senate are out of touch.”
When asked to elaborate, these women attached distinctly male words and images to the target of their anger.
“Men were a big part of the problem to these women,” Grove said. “The words that they used were very, very male.”
Grove said that women, without any guidance, said that congressional leadership consisted of a “bunch of old men with their arms crossed and grouchy looks on their faces, a bunch of silver-haired, mostly guys, ‘men trying to run everyone’s lives the way they feel it should be,’ ‘I picture old and male, yes I know there are exceptions but this is the prevailing type that runs our country.’”
Grove explained that the women did not express anger toward female officeholders. “[T]hey don’t automatically go ‘oh, women are better,’” said Grove. “What they do is say ‘men are the problem.’”
“As we’ve been saying we have these great, fantastic candidates — but it also might be the year of un-electing men,” Grove said, adding that the women were also not pleased by proposed Republican budget reforms to Medicare and Medicaid.
When prompted on what they are looking for in leadership, Grove explained that the women used words like “collaborators,” “listeners,” “human touch,” “people who genuinely care” and “nurturing.”
“When we asked qualities — without any gender associated with it — ‘what are you looking for?’ They said a lot of things that certainly, at least in our view as analysts, have a very distinctly feminine bent to them,” Grove said, adding that women are putting a lot of stock in people who believe in “giving back.”
The group is using the research to inform campaign strategies to persuade swing, independent voters to vote for their endorsed candidates. Women Vote! director Denise Feriozzi explained the group is applying the women’s own language to EMILY’s List candidates to show that the candidates are “just like them.”
Schirock expressed optimism about Democratic female candidates’ election prospects — the group stressed that the Republican agenda has moved more women to the “D” column.
“We are very much in a position to be in the center of holding the Democratic majority in the United States Senate and really picking up, and making great gains, if not taking back the House of Representative,” said Schirock.
EMILY’s List explained away the narrowing gender gap between Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama as being a cyclical anomaly.
“What we’re seeing on the Romney front is a little bit of consolidation of the Republican women. What we see our task ahead is to make sure every single Democrat, Independent, and moderate Republican woman in this country knows what this Republican social agenda is,” Feriozzi explained. “Because everytime we see this in the polling and they are reminded of what has happened whether it is defunding Planned Parenthood, the fight over access to birth control, the Ryan budget on Social Security and Medicare — I mean we’re talking different generations here — women not just Democrats, but across the board really start moving back to Democrats.”
According to Feriozzi, the women’s vote will bring Democrats to victory in the fall.