Studies suggest Clinton may not be wrong on white women voting like their husbands

Tuesday , March 13, 2018 - 9:40 AM

Eugene Scott

(c) 2018, The Washington Post.

According to Hillary Clinton, many white women voted against her because the men in their lives told them to.

During a discussion at the India Today Conclave on Saturday, Clinton was asked why she thought most white women voted for Trump, even after the “Access Hollywood” tape and claims of sexual misconduct weeks before the election.

“[Democrats] do not do well with white men, and we don’t do well with married, white women. And part of that is an identification with the Republican Party, and a sort of ongoing pressure to vote the way that your husband, your boss, your son, whoever, believes you should,” she said.

Clinton also said she was winning with white women - but lost momentum after then-FBI director James Comey released a letter saying the agency was looking into additional emails from Clinton’s private server.

The former Democratic candidate is correct that white women usually choose Republicans in presidential elections; they’ve done so since 2004. And most white women without college degrees have backed the Republican in every presidential election since 2000.

And like it or not, the second part of her statement may not be wrong.

Clinton has made comments like these before and has been criticized for them because they appear to place the blame for her loss on white women’s inability to think independently about their vote. But there are studies that show that how white women vote, especially those who are married, is highly influenced by the politics of their husbands.

Oregon State University professor Kelsy Kretschmer co-wrote a study examining women’s voting patterns. “We know white men are more conservative, so when you’re married to a white man you get a lot more pressure to vote consistent with that ideology,” she told the Guardian last year.

This and other studies also show that other factors influence why white women vote for conservative politicians. White women are much more likely to be married than women of other demographic groups. And married women are more likely to support traditional values, both culturally and economically.

A study from the Institute for Social and Economic Research reported that married men tend to favor Republican presidential nominees for economic reasons, and their wives in general join them in support of their husband’s economic interests.

Obvious pushback to Clinton’s comments would be that she and other Democratic candidates failed to present a platform that helps assuage white women’s cultural and economic anxieties.

Ultimately Clinton won the overall female vote, something Trump falsely claimed he won at a Pennsylvania rally on Saturday. But 52 percent of white women did vote for him, according to exit polls.

But if the GOP wants to win nonwhite women voters, perhaps it’s best for the president to focus on his standing with all women in 2018 instead of reminiscing about 2016, especially as his party faces potentially tough midterms. Trump’s overall approval rating with women has decreased over the past two months, according to Gallup.

Christian evangelical women, members of the religious group that backed Trump most strongly, have backed away from the man some evangelical leaders have called their “dream president.”

According to data the Pew Research Center provided to The Washington Post, support for Trump among white evangelical women in polls has dropped about 13 percentage points, to 60 percent, compared with about a year ago. That is even greater than the eight-point drop among all women.

And Trump’s support with white women has dropped. Many of these women - white, married, suburban - backed Trump after the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and other surrogates convinced these women that Trump’s agenda was the best for traditional families.

Despite 47 percent of white women approving of Trump in an April Post-ABC poll, that number dropped to 37 percent in a January Post-ABC poll.

But even those women who supposedly were drawn to Trump’s message due to their economic anxiety - white women without college degrees - are less supportive of him. More than 6 in 10 - 61 - percent of white women without a college degree backed the president, but now less than half - 43 percent - approve of Trump’s job performance, according to the Post poll.

Just as in the elections since the 2016 presidential one, many eyes will be on Tuesday’s Pennsylvania house race. And one of the groups many Americans will be watching will be the women who voted for Trump.

Statewide elections in Alabama, Virginia and other states show that even outside of presidential elections, white women continue to vote for Trump’s party, according to exit polls. But with Trump’s favorability continuing to decline with some of the women who supported him the most, there could be a bit of a shift in numbers in the upcoming midterms if the GOP continues to struggle with white women.


Sign up for e-mail news updates.