Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Election shows what women want

By Susan Carroll, Special to CNN
updated 6:12 AM EST, Fri November 9, 2012
A blur of waving flags greeted President Barack Obama's victory speech at an election night event in Chicago, Illinois. A blur of waving flags greeted President Barack Obama's victory speech at an election night event in Chicago, Illinois.
HIDE CAPTION
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
Election 2012: The best photos
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
67
68
69
70
71
72
73
74
75
76
77
78
79
80
81
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Susan Carroll: Obama, Christie working together after Sandy resonated for women voters
  • She says it's because women motivated by different things -- like cooperation -- than men
  • She says women voters sent message. First, they want strong social safety net
  • Carroll: Women reject extremism, particularly on reproduction, want problem-solving leaders

Editor's note: Susan J. Carroll is professor of political science and senior scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University. She is co-editor of "Gender and Elections: Shaping the Future of American Politics, Second Edition."

(CNN) -- I recently watched images of President Obama and Gov. Christie of New Jersey pledging to work together to get emergency aid to Hurricane Sandy's victims as quickly as possible. Gov. Christie, you'll recall, gave the keynote address at the Republican National Convention and spent a fair amount of time lambasting Obama during the campaign.

But as they toured the damaged coastline together, I thought that many women watching across the country would be moved by the leadership of these two men and their willingness to transcend their partisan differences. A Washington Post Tracking Poll seemed to confirm this: 26% of women nationally -- more than men, at 18% -- reported that Obama's handling of the hurricane response would be a major factor in determining their vote for president.

Susan Carroll
Susan Carroll

Politicians take note: Women are often motivated by different things than men.

Opinion: Women gain wider access to power

And with their votes in Tuesday's election, women sent important messages to President Obama and to leaders of both parties. A majority of women voted to re-elect the president, while a slightly smaller majority of men voted for Romney, according to exit polls. Obama also won a majority of women's votes, with Romney winning a majority of men's, in critical battleground states such as Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nevada, and New Hampshire.

Why did women and men vote this way? The answer lies in part in their different views about government and the role it should play in our lives.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



First, women were voting for a more affirmative role on the part of the federal government. Men, more than women, have long said they favor dramatic cutbacks in the size of government. Women, more than men, worry that cutbacks will go too far; they are concerned with preserving America's social safety net for those in need—programs such as Medicaid, school lunches and child nutrition programs, and Supplemental Security Income for elderly and disabled individuals.

This will be particularly important as President Obama and Congress work on a deal to save the country from falling off the fiscal cliff. Women will be watching to make sure that the basic social infrastructure is not threatened.

Minorities, women helped Obama win
Obama speaks on love of wife, kids
Feminist icon on this election
Castellanos: Pressure is off Obama now

Second, women care about their own health and welfare, and that of their families and other Americans. Consequently, they denied their votes to candidates that showed extremism on issues such as abortion and contraception and backed those who supported women's right to control their reproductive decisions.

Nowhere was this more apparent than in the Senate contests in Missouri and Indiana, two conservative states where voters strongly preferred Romney in the presidential race. But in the Senate race the majority of women voted for Democrat Claire McCaskill, while only about a third voted for Republican Todd Akin, who in a discussion of his no-exceptions policy on abortion, said in a televised interview in August that "if it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

Similarly, in Indiana, a majority of women voted for Democrat Joe Donnelly, helping him defeat Republican Richard Mourdock, who said in a U.S. Senate debate that "even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that is something that God intended to happen."

Women's personal views on abortion may vary, but few are not offended by extreme statements like these. Women voters, in general, would prefer that lawmakers devote their energy to solving the nation's economic problems rather than regulating and restricting women's access to contraception and their ability to make reproductive choices.

Finally, women want strong leaders who can work across party lines to solve problems -- which brings us back to Christie and Obama. Women who were moved by Obama's actions along the Jersey Shore would likely be pleased if he showed the same kind of unifying leadership in Washington. That may in part be why they helped reelect him. And they would be equally pleased to see Congress set aside its petty bickering and partisan gamesmanship and work with the president to solve the very grave problems our country confronts.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Susan Carroll.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:17 AM EDT, Tue July 29, 2014
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
A crisis like the Gaza conflict or the surge of immigrants can be an opportunity for a lame duck president, writes Julian Zelizer
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Carol Costello says the league's light punishment sent the message that it didn't consider domestic violence a serious offense
updated 8:51 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Danny Cevallos says saggy pants aren't the kind of fashion statement protected by the First Amendment.
updated 2:52 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Margaret Hoover says some GOP legislators support a state's right to allow same-sex marriage and the right of churches, synagogues and mosques not to perform the sacrament
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Priya Satia says today's drones for bombardment and surveillance have their roots in the deadly history of Western aerial control of the Middle East that began in World War One
updated 12:35 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
updated 11:33 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
updated 8:45 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 2:53 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT