Bush, Kerry and the Women's Vote
By Meredith Wagner, Lifetime Entertainment Services -- Broadcasting & Cable, 8/8/2004 8:00:00 PM
What do women want? And why should President Bush and Sen. Kerry care? Answer: In every presidential election since 1980, the proportion of eligible female adults who voted has exceeded the proportion of eligible male adults who voted.
In 2004, it appears that women once again will prove the pivotal voting bloc. According to the Center for Media Research, 60% of all undecided voters this year are women.
But a Lifetime Television and Rock the Vote poll, in partnership with the Young Women's Leadership Conference '04, finds neither President Bush nor Sen. Kerry connecting with women, particularly young women and undecided women, on issues critical to their lives and vote. The Manchester Union-Leader headlined after Lifetime Television and ABC News co-sponsored a forum among Democratic candidates back in January: "Three candidates discuss a rare topic—women's issues."
Are those concerns dominated by fears of terrorism or the war in Iraq? Domestic issues predominate. More than 90% of women ages 18-24 say a candidate's position on preventing violence against women, equal pay and women's health issues would influence them, yet fewer than one in 10 say they have heard much from the candidates on these issues.
While there are outstanding women political leaders across the country, women need to increase our involvement in the political process if we are ever to fully attain equal rights. That will happen only when women hold more elected office and speak out from positions of power. Fifty nations around the world guarantee equal rights to women in their constitutions. The U.S, which ranks 57th in the world in its percentage of women elected to its national legislature, isn't one of them.
Beyond obtaining political power and leverage, we must also confront the systemic failure of our society, appalling in the 21st century, to encourage women to become political candidates. Our poll found 27% of men were told to run for elected office by their parents or teachers, but only 13% of women were similarly encouraged. Perhaps this is why nearly 20% of women 18-24 believe that someone of their gender will never be elected president.
Since the 1992 election, Lifetime's "Every Woman Counts" public-education campaign has worked to empower women of all ages and backgrounds to become part of the democratic process, whether as candidates, by voter registration at lifetimetv.com or through partnerships with Rock the Vote and Latina magazine.
In 2000, more than 40 million women were eligible to vote but did not. Only when women's voices are heard at the ballot box will the issues they care about be addressed in the halls of power—by men and women.
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