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 8:27 PM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
The ability to manipulate media and technology has increasingly become a critical strategic resource, says Jeff Yang.
updated 11:17 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Today's politicians should follow Ronald Reagan's advice and invest in science, research and development, Fareed Zakaria says.
updated 8:19 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Artificial intelligence does not need to be malevolent to be catastrophically dangerous to humanity, writes Greg Scoblete.
updated 10:05 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Historian Douglas Brinkley says a showing of Sony's film in Austin helped keep the city weird -- and spotlighted the heroes who stood up for free expression
updated 8:03 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Tanya Odom that by calling only on women at his press conference, the President made clear why women and people of color should be more visible in boardrooms and conferences
updated 6:27 PM EST, Sat December 27, 2014
When oil spills happen, researchers are faced with the difficult choice of whether to use chemical dispersants, authors say
updated 1:33 AM EST, Thu December 25, 2014
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
updated 6:12 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
updated 8:36 AM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
updated 2:14 PM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
updated 10:35 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
updated 7:57 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
updated 11:29 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
updated 4:15 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
updated 1:11 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
updated 1:08 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
updated 1:53 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
updated 3:19 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
updated 5:39 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
updated 8:12 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
updated 12:09 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
updated 6:45 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
updated 4:34 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT