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Diplomacy in Action

Elections 2016: Will Women Decide?

Kristen Soltis Anderson, Republican pollster; and Margie Omero, managing director of Purple Insights
Washington, DC
March 1, 2016




1:00 P.M. EST

THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.

MODERATOR: Welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center, and thank you all for joining us on this Super Tuesday. As part of the FPC election series, today’s briefing is on Women: Will Women Decide in 2016? We have two experts with us today who will try and answer those questions. First we have Kristen Soltis Anderson. She is a pollster and author of The Selfie Vote: Where Millennials are Leading America. And we also have Marjorie Omero. She is the managing director of research for Purple Insights. Together they produce a weekly podcast called The Pollsters. Each will make some opening remarks and then we’ll open it up for questions. And just a reminder that today’s views are the speakers’ views and not necessarily the U.S. Government’s.

With that, I will turn it over to Kristen.

MS ANDERSON: Thank you very much and thank you all for being here today on this very exciting Super Tuesday. Tomorrow morning we’ll have a lot more information, more exit polls to deal with to help us understand how this election might play out. But certainly we’ve had a lot of trends emerging in America politics over the last couple of election cycles that give us a little bit of a hint about the role that women will play in this election.

In the last couple of elections, my party, the Republican Party, has struggled quite a bit to win over female voters. During midterm elections we’ve done reasonably well. During the 2010 midterms the Republican Party won female voters by a 1 point margin. During the 2014 midterms they lost female voters by, I believe, only a 4 point margin while winning male voters by double digits. But this is a presidential election, so (inaudible) and the racial and ethnic makeup of our electorate will be different. The generational makeup of our electorate will be different. It’s a completely different ballgame and it’s one where the environment does not favor Republicans particularly.

On the Republican side of the aisle, sometimes we think about female voters as an outreach group. There was the – after the 2013 election the Republican Party put together a report known as the Vote Counters (inaudible) project report that tried to analyze why our party had struggled to win at the presidential level and what we could do to turn around our fortunes. It pointed out that there a number of really incredible (inaudible), Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina being perhaps the most prominent among them these days, and that there are really big opportunities for Republicans if we learn how to focus effectively on the issues where we have been separated from women in the past.

Traditionally we think of quote/unquote women’s issues in politics as being ones around reproductive rights and the issue of abortion. In the 2012 election that was expanded slightly to issues such as birth control, where in many cases Republicans kind of found themselves tripped up on this issue. But this election I think will be very interesting because the basket of things we think of as women’s issues I think is really going to be expanded to talk about economic issues, issues like equal pay, issues like paid leave, child care, et cetera.

(Audio break.)

MS ANDERSON: (In progress) of the government telling anyone what their benefits package has to look like. We prefer to typically fix problems not through regulation, but nonetheless that’s not a very satisfying answer on questions of what do we do about equal pay for women. And a lot of times Republican candidates will get tripped up, and instead of initially saying, “I believe women should be paid equally for equal work,” can get down in the weeds in discussions of policy and regulations that are kind of unsatisfying.

So this election I think presents a lot of risks to Republicans. Women are a majority in voters in America. It’s critical to win over female voters if you want to win the White House. For Republicans, simply running up the score among male voters will not be enough, particularly given that this may be an election where we have a female candidate at the top of the ticket for one of our major parties. This presents I think a lot of potential challenges for my party, and I am hopeful that we will emerge with a nominee who is able to begin kind of trying to effectively overcome some of these challenges.

Of course, on the Republican side at this point, it seems likely that Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee, and certainly he has had a complicated history in the last couple of months, or perhaps last couple of decades, when it comes to comments that he has made about women. Within the context of the Republican primary, interestingly enough, he does not have as significant deficit among Republican female voters as you might expect. There are many Republican women who look at Donald Trump as someone who is disrupting the political order that they feel has neglected them and left them out of the process for far too long.

The sort of Mama Grizzly phenomenon that you saw in 2010 with women who were very focused on issues like the national debt is still sort of at play where you have women who – they look at someone like a Sarah Palin and they find her to be very inspirational, someone who changes the game of what it means to be a conservative woman in politics. And some of them are looking at Donald Trump and saying he represents enough disruptive change for me to get onboard despite the comments that he’s made. So I think Republicans have an enormous amount of challenge in front of them, particularly given the many headwinds they will be facing with perhaps facing a female candidate on the other side of the ticket.

But where I think there is some potentially sort of interesting opportunity, and it will be very – it’s hard at this point given the potential Trump nomination to see how Republicans can capitalize on it, but you’ve seen in a lot of the Democratic primary polls – and I’ll let Margie sort of weigh in more on what the Democratic side looks like – where you have a lot of young women who have actually been breaking away from Hillary Clinton and voting more for Bernie Sanders, that generation seems to be playing a bigger role than gender in that context. And so a lot of young women are looking at Hillary Clinton and don’t necessarily think that she does represent what they stand for, that they think Bernie Sanders and his focus on economic justice is perhaps more disruptive and transformational than Hillary Clinton. And I have heard in focus groups a number of young women who say it’s not that they don’t like Hillary Clinton, but they don’t necessarily think she has to be the first female president, that they expect they will see a female president in their lifetime, doesn’t have to be her.

And so I think Republicans are looking at this group of younger women and trying to figure out is there any way that they can capitalize on this as a party. It’ll be a very uphill battle for a number of reasons I suspect we’ll get into during our discussion today, but it is fascinating to be on the other side of the aisle and to watch young women in the Democratic primary still not quite warming to Hillary Clinton and wondering what that does mean for November.

MS OMERO: So Kristen and I come from different parties, but I think we have – we agree on quite a few components of this. And so I think when we’re thinking about women voters and the election, I think it makes sense to break it up into what we’re thinking, right? Women voters, women’s issues, and now a woman – potentially a woman candidate, and how those are not – it’s not just sort of a woman thing where they’re all in alignment, women voters just care about women’s issues and women candidates. It’s a little bit more complicated and nuanced than that.

So as background, as Kristen mentioned, there is traditionally a gender gap. That’s the difference between men and women’s support for the winning candidate. That’s the technical definition. And there’s been a gender gap favoring the Democratic Party since 1980. That’s been happening now for a while.

The question is: What’s the size of it? And when that gender gap is in the double digits, Democrats typically win. When it’s smaller, Republicans typically win. So that’s happened in previous midterms and in some presidential contests. But it’s always there, and that’s part of why you see sometimes in elections, particularly in down ballot races and in Senate races, sometimes you’ll have candidates really trying to reach non-Democratic women, Republican swing women who are very open to some of the messages on the Democratic side or perhaps need reminding and coaxing back into the fold on the Republican side.

And when we’re talking about women’s issues, I agree with Kristen. That’s something that needs to be broad. Traditionally, women’s issues has sounded like abortion, but for a lot of women voters it really means all kinds of things – gender pay equity, child care, deadbeat parents, making sure people – single parents have help, the help that they need; college affordability; preschool, universal preschool. These are issues that have become more salient politically in the past few years. They have always been big concerns for women voters. That’s not new that women and moms in particular have said I’d like to have universal – easier to find preschool for my kids, or I’m worried about college affordability.

I’ve been working on a project for the last few years studying Wal-Mart moms. They’re a swing voting bloc that are moms with kids under 18 who have shopped at a Wal-Mart in the last month. It’s about 15 percent of the electorate. And they have moved, bounced around, back and forth. And when we’ve done focus groups with these moms, they say, “I’m concerned about all of it. I feel this financial pressure and worry about keeping the trains running and making sure my family – household is running smoothly. And I don’t hear politicians talking about that at all. When they focus on the partisan bickering and they’re just trying to score a political point against their opponent, that means that they’re not really paying attention to what my life is like. They have no idea what it’s like to be me.”

We ask moms in these focus groups, “Tell me how you would – what do you think a congressperson’s life is like? What’s a day in the life of a congressperson, and what’s a day in your life like?” And so they’ll talk about, like, “I have to go to the grocery store, I have to drop the kids off, I have to go to work.” Okay, well, what’s a member of Congress’s life like? Like, “They don’t even have to feed themselves. They just have a private chef give them breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and then they don’t need to drive themselves anywhere. They don’t need to know what the price of gas is, they don’t have to pump their own gas, they don’t – they basically have to do nothing.” That’s how they imagine it, that every member of Congress comes to Washington and they get a private chef and – to follow them around for every meal.

What that symbolizes is how vast they feel that the cultural difference is. Because members of Congress don’t have private chefs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week, but they do – but that sense that they don’t get it, right, that there’s just this vast chasm. And government dysfunction has been increasing as a worry across the board – not just women, but voters overall, across party lines too. And for a lot of women specifically, they see that as just a distraction from the things that really are important to us.

And then as far as women voters in the primaries go and on the contests that are coming up, on the Republican side, I feel like more could be done by some of the other candidates – that are not Donald Trump – to really boost their support among women voters. There was a story in The New York Times this past week – I’m sure folks have seen it – about what the Republican Party’s been working on behind the scenes to try to stop Trump. I didn’t really see much in there about talking to women voters or reaching out to women voters. Some of the ideas were things like talk about eminent domain or talk about taxes, when I think a reminder of some of his more egregious comments – I guess that’s – he sets a high bar for like being an actual egregious comment, I guess. And he might be able to improve the standing of the rest of the field among women. I don’t know if that’s the plan on the Republican primary going forward. But in the general, that’s – that’ll clearly happen.

There I think it’ll be easier, given Trump’s unfavorables across the country with the general electorate, to demonstrate how dangerous he really is, how it’s not just anti-woman he is, anti – anti-everybody, that sort of dangerous, incredibly aggressive – I mean, there’s no other word for it other than dangerous or hateful speech that he has at times – is something that affects everybody and bothers everybody. And that’s why he’s had such a high unfavorables across the board.

Now, I guess the last piece is thinking about women candidates. And obviously, Clinton is favored to win a lot of the contests today, and going forward that makes her path to the nomination clearer than it was a few weeks ago. And I think what you’re finding and what we’ll see a few – going forward is this sense of – what are the boundaries, right? We’re learning what people’s boundaries are either in the Republican primary or overall when Trump says all the things that he says. What are the boundaries in terms of what kind of language is okay or not okay facing a woman candidate?

And we have those kinds of discussions in 2008 in the primary there, too. What sort of language is seen as upsetting people’s racial boundaries or gender boundaries? You had someone shout out “iron my shirt” during one of the 2008 primaries to Clinton. Okay, that made news, but that showed that that was a boundary that was seen as not okay, right. Those kinds of conversations that people have, they may have news flare-ups, and then we decide, “This is not okay. That was an outlier.” I don’t know where the boundary is on the right, given what Trump is saying. I mean, things that seemed clearly out of bounds are somehow in-bounds. I don’t know how that – what happens as that – I think what happens as that becomes a general election contest is those things are now seen as out of bounds.

But on the left, I don’t – I know there’s some talk over things that seem – strike some as sexist or not sexist. I think that that kind of conversation is going to recede, at least in the primary. I think that you have a lot of the Democrats – whether they’re supporting Sanders or Clinton – that they’re going to come home and they’re going to vote for the nominee, and they’re going to be perfectly happy and ready and enthusiastic to vote for the nominee as opposed to Trump if – particularly if he’s the Republican nominee.

I do think there is some talk about what is happening among women on the left – younger women voting for Sanders, older women voting for Clinton. That’s a pattern that you’ve seen in a lot of contests. Cosmopolitan just released a poll of just millennial women, and among millennials, younger millennials were even more likely to support Sanders than older millennials. So even when you drill it down a little bit further, younger millennial women are even – you see that pattern even more. I think it’s a mistake to look at that as some kind of big comment on feminism per se as much as they may simply like what Sanders has to say. It doesn’t mean that they’re rejecting feminism or haven’t experienced one thing or another in the workforce, which some have hypothesized.

And I think a lot of that will recede if the Clinton campaign focuses its general election message more on women’s issues and on the broader – a broader economic message, and less on the historic nature of her candidacy. Because ultimately while people – while women candidates for the president are a little on the new side, right, for us, we don’t want to feel like we’re voting for somebody because of the historic nature of their candidacy. That’s just not – Americans are typically – even if some of them are, you have a lot of folks say, “Well, I don’t want to identify as voting for that reason.” They want to feel that they’re voting for the person, not because of some other identity. That’s not all voters, but that’s a lot of voters. We have that tendency to want to say that.

So I think for a general election message, it would make sense for the Clinton campaign more to focus on the women’s issues that really can help boost and widen that gender gap, give women voters their – the political power that they deserve and should have and have in some elections where they can really sway and drive change in our political dialogue and less on her role as a candidate, because ultimately voters want to look at this as something that they’re a part of rather than just supporting simply a candidate.

MODERATOR: Great, so we will open it up for questions. Just a reminder to wait for the microphone on either side and state your name and your media organization.

QUESTION: Hi, Lauri Tankler from the Estonian Public Broadcasting TV and Radio News. I’m mostly probably going to be focusing on the Republican side and the women’s issues or the economic issues, but absolutely the Democratic – both of you probably have insights into it.

I have a million questions, but I’ll start with one. The same thing that you said that women’s issues are not any particular one or two things anymore but it’s a wide variety of economic issues – questions of paid leave and equal pay and so on and so forth. How do you see your party or the Republican Party going forward with this, seeing how the market itself hasn’t balanced things out? Younger women see other countries where paid leave is very normal and regular, and here it’s kind of not and it’s not even talked about in the Republican Party as a viable idea. What do you see is that messaging to women who are more and more breadwinners in their own families and basically are no different in their roles as the men?

MS ANDERSON: So this is a great question. And one of the big things that has been a problem for Republicans, particularly with younger voters, is that in recent years they’ve really taken on the brand of being kind of an old-fashioned party. I hear this a lot when I go into focus groups – people sort of worry that the Republican Party is out of step with how sort of, as particularly younger people are building their families in new ways, handling household responsibilities in new ways, that women’s role in the workplace is a little bit different. And so certainly, I think making sure that Republicans have a message that sort of understands those issues and understands those dynamics is really key.

But I don’t think that Republicans should necessarily just adopt all of the Democrats’ policy positions on these issues and say we need the government to mandate x number of months of paid leave. Because when I’ve talked about this in focus groups with women who are swing women, many of them, they believe that women face unique economic challenges, they believe that Republicans don’t necessarily get what it’s like to be a woman in America today and to have to sort of juggle it all and succeed at it all.

At the same time, many of them understand – they’re small business owners who – it doesn’t mean that they’ve got a company of 100 workers. It means they’ve started up a small little company in their neighborhood and they’ve got maybe two or three staff. And they think, well, gosh, I’d really like to be able to have paid leave, but I also understand that if all of a sudden I had to pay for an employee to be out for six months, I’ve also got to then pay for someone to take on their responsibility. And so I get that this is tough. They get that it’s a tough conversation and they get that there’s not necessarily one right policy prescription that’s going to fit everyone.

I think that what Republicans need to do is engage in the discussion, explain why they hold the positions they do. Too often Republicans see these topics as landmines and avoid them entirely.

Take the issue of birth control, for instance. In the last election, this was very – or the 2012 election, very complicated for Republicans. And it was asked in a debate, “Do you want to ban birth control?” Mitt Romney didn’t want to ban birth control, but whenever he was sort of asked these questions, his response would sort of default to, well, I want to create jobs, let’s talk about these other issues where I’m more comfortable, instead of just sort of engaging in the discussion and being clear about what his position was.

I think for a lot of these Republican candidates at the moment, I don’t know that they have a solid position on what it is they think the right answer is on something like paid leave, what is the right answer on something like equal pay. And I do think they need to figure that out so they can engage in the discussion and not just avoid it entirely come a general election.

MS OMERO: And I think sometimes the left can be – can get tripped up where we narrowly focus on women’s issues as being defined by birth – by abortion. Birth control kind of fell on our lap. We thought that that was settled until a couple years ago and it kind of got reopened, so now that also means birth control. But that’s – for a lot of feminists and women’s groups, their argument is if you can’t be trusted to be autonomous over your own fertility, then how is anybody – then you have no rights at all, then you have no – you’re not trusted by society to do anything else, which I completely get.

I think that the broadening of aperture of women’s issues brings in women from different walks of life, at different stages of their life, at different moments of life, and at different times. And when everybody is sort of left to their own devices for things like paid leave or child care or gender pay equity or preschool, which preschool is an economic issue. If you – if there is no public preschool year-round, full-time option, then for a lot of moms, then they have a lot of problems, then they have a lot of problems going back to work, re-entering the workforce. They put together a patchwork of care, getting out on time. It just – it causes a lot of challenges, so it’s an economic issue in addition to an education issue.

Anyway, so you – when we don’t have that as any kind of system, you have moms sort of slugging it out one on one. Like, well, I did it this way. Why can’t you do what I did? Oh, well, she has it so easy because she had x, y, and z. And that really causes a lot of this friction that everybody loves to cover about the mommy wars and women criticizing each other over x, y, and z. That comes from a lack of some sort of standard nationally, whether that’s a government standard or simply a perceived standard or just a practice, that ends up really harming all of us in addition to the actual economic stresses that it causes.

QUESTION: Hi. Hi, I’m Jeremy Au Yong from The Straits Times of Singapore. I actually have two questions about women’s – women voters. The first one I guess is: Do you have a sense of how strong the identity of being a woman affects the way someone votes? Do – is that – for women voters, is that the main thing that sways how they vote, or is it something else? If I’m a Hispanic woman, does my race influence the way I vote more than my gender?

My second question is about how well works – the women that the candidate surround themselves with, how much does that have any effect on how people vote? Because I see Trump bringing out Melania and Ivanka to every big campaign he has or Rubio walking around with Nikki Haley, even with Hillary and she starts talking a lot – she brings Chelsea in, she’s talking about grandmother. How much – I assume that’s targeted at women. I don't know how well that works.

MS ANDERSON: I’ll try to answer both of your questions in one answer together. I think that, for a lot of people, what they’re mostly trying to figure out is does this leader get what I’m going through. And so if their life experience is being defined very heavily by what generation they’re in, then that will play a big role. If their life experiences are being defied at that moment very heavily by their gender, then that will play a big role.

But you see – I mean, within the group of female voters, female voters are not monolithic. You have younger women who are very concerned about issues like student loan debt and trying to figure out how are they going to build their own careers. You have women who are a little bit older in life who are very focused on the education system and perhaps more interested in issues like pay equity, as they’re sort of in the prime of their career or they have small children who are in school. You have women who are sometimes – they’re juggling taking care of their own children as well as taking care of an aging parent, and so for them the health care system is a really big issue. And then for women who are senior citizens, things like Social Security and Medicare are going to be really important issues in a way that they perhaps aren’t to a women who’s in her 20s. So in that case, you have female voters, but generation is playing a big role in what issues matter to them. And similarly, I might expect an issue like racial justice or police brutality, things like that, to resonate more with a young African American woman than it would with a young white woman. They are just – in the polls, you see that all of these variables play an impact in affecting what issues somebody is more likely to think are important to them.

To the point about folks bringing – male candidates bringing women that they’re related to out on the trail, I think, in part, it’s an attempt to demonstrate, “I get what people who are like you are going through. Look, I’ve surrounded myself with people who are living different experiences.”

MS OMERO: “My family loves me.”

MS ANDERSON: “My family loves me.” Look, it’s a Good Housekeeping seal of approval. But I think ultimately it does come down to does the person whose name is on the ballot get what I’m going through. And so while I am all about folks having a diverse array of people endorsing them, who are able to go out on the trail, maybe speak more credibly in different media sources – it may be the case that Nikki Haley is more credible to go on a women’s television program and talk to an audience than perhaps someone who is an old senator, who’s a male, who’s been around for 40 years. But maybe not. I don't think that women only listen to women. I think they just want someone who’s going to prove credibly that they understand what their life is like and what they’re going through.

MS OMERO: Yeah. And I think – and I would differentiate between having your – the women in your life around you, which is good. That’s sort of humanizing, as they said. And it depends, too, on the gender of the candidate. I’ve worked with candidates who’ve had five kids who are male, and it’s very easy for a male candidate to be like, “Look at my five cute kids.” If you had a female candidate with five kids, she’d be far less likely to say, “Look at my five young children,” because the immediate thought would be – well, are you sure you want to run for whatever the office is?

I mean, I once saw an ad for a candidate for governor and the wife was at the table and the husband’s like, “Honey, what are you doing?” And she said, “I’m just writing your television ad about how you’re the greatest dad and businessman,” and whatever the rest of it was. And it’s hard to imagine the tables being turned, that a woman candidate would say, “Honey, what are you doing?” And he’s like, “I’m just writing your television ad,” because it’s just laughable to think of a man – a husband writing a woman’s television ad, and the immediate thought would be, “Well, he’s really in charge there.” So I think there’s some kind of gender stuff at play with some of those things, particularly with Trump I would imagine. And everyone likes Chelsea Clinton; there’s no reason not to bring her out on the trail.

I think that’s a completely different type of question from having women consultants and advisors and staff, which everybody should have. And if they don’t, that’s some – you should question the intelligence of the candidate, because you should have a diverse team of people in – at your side. Regardless of what you’re running for, you should have voices – and whether they’re all around you all the time or you have folks that you bounce ideas off of, you should have a diverse team of people so you can – someone to gut-check your assumptions before you talk to a group, because it just helps to have all those voices at the table, for sure. And I can – there’s zillions of times where you can see an example of a candidate who doesn’t really have women around them or they don’t have – they don’t have enough minorities or they don’t have a diverse staff around them, and then they’re just not as fluent in the language that they need to be or in the tone that they should have. So I think that’s – that can be a problem for a lot of candidates.

And to your first question, I think everybody approaches identity very differently. I think some people say, “I’m x, y, and z,” and other folks, they haven’t – they don’t necessarily give that a lot of thought. They’re like, “Well, this is the identity I have. I haven’t really thought about what this means versus what something else would mean because I’m this, so I don’t really think about it very much.” And everybody goes to the voting booth and has a zillion different ways that they approach it. I mean, look, Donald Trump is doing better in the primaries with downscale folks while – and he’s a billionaire, as he’s reminded us, while Marco Rubio comes from humble roots and does well with upscale Republicans. And Trump does well with – beats Cruz with Evangelicals. So the rules of – and Sanders does best with the younger – I mean, the rules of like somebody wants to vote for somebody who looks like them clearly don’t apply anymore.

QUESTION: I have a short follow-up. Okay. This is a somewhat shallow question, but is Melania an asset or a liability politically?

MS OMERO: She – there was a poll out today, actually. CNN – I hadn’t seen any polling on her before. CNN shows that she is more popular than Trump, but she’s slightly net unfavorable. I believe among Republicans she has a similar favorable-to-unfavorable ratio to Trump, but just is less well known. So I guess that means that’s a bit of an improvement. And she does better – she is more popular among women – among Republican women than among Republican men, so women like her. So maybe he’s smart to bring her out. I don't know.

QUESTION: I guess glamor helps.

MS OMERO: I think it’s part of the, like, aspiration – the aspirational shtick, like, “I’ve reached the top of the world. You can too.”

QUESTION: I’m Marcel Calphat. I’m with Radio Canada. Coming back to the identity question, we were in South Carolina just recently for the Democratic primary. And we interviewed a lot of female African American who were telling us that in 2008, they were all Hillary until Obama came into the picture and was a viable candidate, and then they switched. So these women African American chose race as opposed to gender. And I’m wondering if there’s – if that correlates to anything you’ve seen.

MS ANDERSON: Well, that was a specific – I mean, in that election, you had candidates who – you had Barack Obama, who was appealing very strongly to African American voters within the Democratic Party; you had Hillary Clinton, who was appealing very strongly to female voters within the Democratic Party. You created that sort of cross-pressure there. And I think you, in a way, see that in – with young women now. So instead of race and gender, I think of it as generation and gender, where you see young women – where younger voters tend to favor Bernie Sanders, the female voters tend to favor Hillary Clinton, so if you meet both of those criteria, which way are you being pulled? So voters are always sort of cross-pressured.

On the Republican side, interestingly, there are not huge demographic divides between the various candidates who are in the field. It’s not as though Ted Cruz is just really winning among men while Marco Rubio is really winning among women, or that Marco Rubio is winning young voters while Trump wins older voters. That’s not the case at all.

Really, the biggest divide on the Republican side at this point is ideological. If you are very conservative, you tend to favor Ted Cruz. If you’re somewhat conservative or moderate, you tend to favor Donald Trump at this point, because his voters tend to be less connected to ideology or partisan labels in the first place. But in – on the Republican side, the demographic lines, I think, are less clear within the context of our primary.

MS OMERO: I think on the Democratic side, you had a couple other different things happening. So you’ve had a very longstanding support in the black community for the Clintons – for Bill Clinton and for Hillary Clinton – that then they moved to Obama in the 2008 primary with the excitement of his candidacy, and then they returned to Hillary Clinton in South Carolina and likely in the – some of the states that are voting today. And Bernie Sanders needed to introduce himself to those voters and he began, like, very – very unknown, right?

And so he both had to improve his favorability, which he wasn’t as popular among those who know him as Clinton was among those who know her, but – and a hard ID. So he had to move popularity and hard ID. And while both were moving, they just were not moving – they weren’t moving fast enough, especially given where Clinton had sort of decades of goodwill.

QUESTION: Hi, I’m Matthias Kolb. I work for Sueddeutsche Zeitung. I’m from Germany. Thanks for doing this. I would have three questions, maybe.

The first would be, like, how important is authenticity in this race? I was also just, like, on the campaign trail, and I think when you speak with people supporting Trump and Sanders, that comes up a lot, that just, like, they are the real deal. Is that something that – does it resonate also with female voters?

The second thing would be: There are a lot of critical remarks about Hillary Clinton from the Sanders supporters but also from Republicans that she doesn’t release the transcript of the speeches, emails and all that stuff. Would you say there is – like, how big is the sexist – or, like, the sexism part in that? Or is it just that she’s a Clinton and she has been around for decades? I would be curious about that.

And my last thing would be, Kristen, you talked about Ted Cruz being super-popular with the people who care a lot about ideology. Do you think there’s any way for him to win a general election with someone who is so strong with ideology when Walmart moms probably think about you have to struggle to work through your day and there is someone who’s only talking about black and white, and everything will be super-easy if you just pray the whole day or just – I don't know, I can’t see any way.

MS ANDERSON: I’ll start by taking the – I’ll take the question about Ted Cruz first. I think if Ted Cruz ultimately does become the Republican nominee – and at this point, his path is a very difficult one, but if he wins a ton of delegates tonight in Texas, I assume he will hang in a little bit longer and see if he can create a viable path out of that.

In a general election, I suspect Ted Cruz would struggle a lot. I think a lot of the swing states where Republicans need to win in order to win in the Electoral College – Ted Cruz does not strike me as the kind of candidate that wants to win swing voters. Ted Cruz has been very explicit that his strategy to win a general election is to activate the conservative base and turn out more Republicans and more conservatives than have been present in previous elections.

But I think Ted Cruz’s strategy in that regard is wrong. He believes – there’s a theory out there; it’s called the missing white voters theory – that in the presidential election of 2012, there were some, I believe, 7 million voters that were supposed to turn out but who stayed home because they found Mitt Romney to be uninspiring. Ted Cruz believes that the way to get these voters to turn out is to be a very conservative candidate, give someone a pure conservative to vote for.

What Ted Cruz misses is that actually, the type of voter that found Mitt Romney to be uninspiring and may have stayed home is actually just the type of voter that likes Donald Trump, that it’s more of sort of a working class, economic, focus on immigration, on trade – those are the issues that resonate with those voters. So I think Ted Cruz has made a gamble that would not pay off for him in a general election. I think his strategy of trying to turn out his base at the expense of voters in the middle, the math just doesn’t really work out for him. But that is his theory of how he would win a general election. I am not convinced that it is a wise strategy.

MS OMERO: So on the Democratic side – so there are a couple different things to unpack. First, I think the Sanders campaign has focused on speeches and not on emails. So I think they’ve made that very clear. Republicans seem to focus more on emails than on the speeches.

Then there’s this discussion on the left primarily of what of all of this stuff is gendered in some way. And I understand where some of that is coming from. I disagree with it. And so – and I say this as someone who’s been a proud feminist rooting for the cause from a very young age. But I think – politically I don’t think it’s a smart strategy because that’s not really something that’s going to make a lot of sense in the general to just sort of, like, say, “Hey, that’s sexist,” every time that there’s some kind of dialogue over something in Clinton’s record, because I think that these are debates that people are going to want to have. And there – even if there is some unknowing gender bias in there, people are still going to say, “Well, I still want to know the answer,” right, so there has to be some kind of – there has to be a conversation there. I think highlighting or trying to highlight sexism in places where people don’t feel that it exists is going to be – may backfire as a strategy.

That said, I can understand some of these conversations. When Cicile Richards went – from Planned Parenthood went to Congress and they would say, “Well, why is your salary 450,000,” or something that’s in line with comparable groups, that seemed gendered, like men are not usually asked to defend their salary quite so regularly for a salary at that level. Maybe men who make a zillion dollars are occasionally asked to – why is your salary so high, but usually not men who run political groups. So that – those kinds of things seem gendered, and I can see why people say, “Well, shouldn’t she make what she’s worth?” I think the issue is, as a presidential candidate, not as a – an actual – the dollar amount itself.

But I think all of that is in the weeds here with your question, which is are we – is there a sense that women have been guilted into supporting Clinton, the Gloria Steinem, Madeleine Albright comments, which they both walked back, that I think were pretty divisive at the time among a lot of women. I think, as I said during the opening, it makes a lot more sense to really focus on what’s in this for women voters, all women voters, who – so many of them share some of these same struggles, and really less about what we should or shouldn’t be saying to women candidates, because ultimately that’s not what keeps voters up at night. What keeps voters up at night is what’s happening to them, and all voters are really looking through these elections through the lens of, “What does this mean for me? What are you going to do for me? What does this mean for me? Who’s going to fight for me?” And all these squabbles over who said what to what candidate are just not part of that calculation.

QUESTION: And the thing about being authentic and genuine?

MS OMERO: Oh, yeah. Sorry, the authentic, yeah. I mean, yeah, that’s what people like about Sanders. That’s what people like about Trump. I mean, I think – and I guess maybe that’s what some people with a knock on some of the other candidates. And people do respond to this, the sense that there’s a candidate just, like – just blurting out what they want to say. And people like that because they feel that, well, one, they are hearing the message more clearly. I think that’s part of it. And two, they want to feel like – that there’s – that I guess maybe they are able to put themselves in the shoes of the candidate, like, “That’s what I would like to do. I’d like to be able just to say what I want to say and not be reserved or holding back.” And I think that’s part of it too. Authenticity is obviously key, because again, it’s part of that relatability.

So that is definitely for sure part of Trump’s appeal and, at times, part of Sanders’ appeal, but it doesn’t mean that that’s ultimately the number one thing driving voters to the polls. I mean, you certainly see in the Democratic primary that while in the exit and entrance polls, voters who say they want someone who’s honest and shares their views, those folks are voting for Sanders or maybe they’re more divided; and folks who say they want experience and someone who’s going to be electable, and those folks are voting for Clinton.

QUESTION: Yes. Thomas Gorguissian with Tahrir, Egypt. I’m trying to figure out exactly who is the woman voter in 2016. Is it different from 2012? Is different from 2008?

Second, with your experience and life experience – well, career experience – do you think that any of these so-called foreign issues or national security is part of woman voter agenda because of – because simply the last 15 years, there is a war and they are losing their husbands or what – kids and all these things – and a lot of resources are going in that direction?

And third, trying to figure out the millennial issues, which is like at a certain generation, they – everybody was taking about the boomers, and now they are talking about millennials as if they are – are they really setting the agenda of the thinking for future, or just they are confused or they are trying to figure out? Because simply when you are talking about the woman – Hillary, do they – how do you – how much do you know about them? I mean, are they planning to go and vote for Sanders or just not to vote?

MS ANDERSON: I’ll take actually your second question, which is about the role that security will play in this election. I think it’s going to be huge. And I want to broaden what we think of as security, though. In a lot of the research that I’ve done in the past couple of months, there’s a sort of consistent theme that women don’t feel like things are secure, whether it means they’re concerned that they don’t think the border is secure, they don’t think the economy is secure, they feel that things are a little bit fragile. And you’ve also had a recent great deal of coverage around a number of different tragedies here within the United States – gun violence; now with San Bernardino, that being connected with terrorism – so you have a lot of women who feel – they don’t feel safe and secure, whether it’s in their financial position or whether it’s in if they go to the grocery store are they potentially going to be under threat from terrorism.

And I think that sense of not feeling very secure is going to play a role in this general election in particular. Who can best demonstrate that they are going to keep our economy secure and our nation secure for women who feel that a lot of things just feel a little bit out of control and a little bit fragile? So I absolutely believe that foreign policy – and particularly this issue of security and are you and your children safe and secure at home – is going to be a big deal.

In the 2004 election, the term emerged, “security moms.” It was predominantly to describe women who remember picking up their kids at school the morning of September 11th – excuse me – and didn’t want to ever feel that feeling again. And as a result, they in that election sort of broke for George W. Bush. They viewed him as the candidate who was best to provide that security. I think now that the discussion is a little bit different and people tend to trust Hillary Clinton more on issues of security and foreign policy than sort of an unnamed Republican, but my suspicion was that after the tragic attacks in Paris, that you would see Donald Trump fade in the polls, and he did not. He only increased his share among Republicans who are looking for someone who projects strength. Trump has tried to take that quality of strength and make it a key part of his campaign. It remains to be seen if that can actually translate credibly in a general election.

MS OMERO: Yeah. I mean, I would say – I mean, I would agree that women and Americans in general look at security and how they view it personally and how they feel about American security. I don’t think there is going to be, honestly, a real increase in the number of Americans, women or men, following foreign affairs closely, right. That’s not something we’re very good at typically, and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t come up when there’s some sort of moment. And I have heard in focus groups, ultimately when people say, well, what was the big thing driving your vote, it’s – if we’re phrasing it in terms of foreign policy, it’s very low down the list. Now, that’s less true in the Republican primary, it’s less true with Republican voters for sure. It’s something that doesn’t come up nearly as often in the Democratic primary or in Democratic debates or among Democratic voters. But in the general, I expect that the pattern that we’ve seen in past elections to be fairly consistent.

Will women voters be the same now as opposed to previous cycles? I mean, I think that it’s going to be the same – it’s the same women by and large are going to be coming to vote if they’re regular presidential voters. I think that it’s – that there is – they’re as diverse and as complex and as complicated and being driven by as many different issues as you can imagine, that women are not going to be approaching this election thinking about it all in the same way as each other, and that’s going to be true whether there’s a woman candidate or two male candidates or two women candidates or a woman GOP VP pick, or what have you. I think there’s going to be a whole breadth and diversity of how women are going to approach the election.

QUESTION: So can I follow up? The reason that I was asking if it’s different because it’s like – sometimes it’s like, it looks hopeless that you discuss something 2004 and now we are discussing again or in some decisions regarding the abortion or whatever, parenthood or all these issues, which is like already we are 2016 and it was supposed to be resolved or whatever happened 10, 20, 15 years ago, but it didn’t happen. So that’s why I am asking that question.

Let me ask a different follow-up thing, which is like let’s assume that there is a woman president. Let’s assume. And if it’s – do you expect that the media in general are going to be sexist, politically incorrect to handle this woman, or what?

MS OMERO: Sometimes yeah. I think – I think by and large, no. And I think everybody’s sense of what the line – like, who’s the judge, right? I mean, everybody judges it a little bit differently, right? Some women will say – I mean, there was a story about Clinton’s – the neckline of what Clinton wore in The Washington Post I guess during the 2008 election, and everyone went crazy as to whether or not that’s acceptable or not. And you could argue yeah, that’s unacceptable. Or you could say look, presidential clothing matters and it doesn’t matter if you’re talking about Marco Rubio’s boots or Sarah Palin’s sparkly thing she wore when she endorsed Trump or whatever. It’s all – this is what people look at with their eyes and they want to talk about it, right?

And so it depends on who the judge is. And I think there’ll always be someone who will fall clearly in the no-go zone, and then there will be a blurry line that we’ll debate over, right? And I think that’s just – that’s part of what happens when you have so many people here commenting on politics all day.

QUESTION: I’m going to follow up my first question about what’s the modern woman and what Republicans and their message and so on. Who are the women who are supporting Republican candidates nowadays in general elections, or who are the ones who are in primaries, and what do they care about? I mean, in terms of messaging, maybe – is the Republican Party maybe content that hey, we’re almost there winning without getting these modern women who are – who need a little bit more or who want more attention to the paid leave questions and all these kind of things. Who are the Republican women?

MS ANDERSON: I don’t think Republicans are content with the share of female voters that they win, but I do think that it is unclear what the party or the nominee’s strategy will be to turn that around. So I think that Republicans would love to do better with female voters, but I don’t know that it’s clear exactly how they will pursue that.

I think that the types of women that Republicans tend to do well with, they sort of match up with a lot of the other demographics of who tends to vote Republican these days. Republicans tend to do well with older voters than younger voters, so older women are a better group than younger women for Republicans. Republicans tend to do well with white voters, so Republicans can in some cases win white women, but they lose African American women, Latino women by such huge margins that they wind up losing the female vote overall.

Religiosity is another thing. Women who go to church very frequently, that’s a factor. If someone goes to church every Sunday, affiliates themselves, let’s say an evangelical voter, they tend to be Republican. So there are all of these other factors in play where the types of women that Republican do well with match up demographically with just the types of voters overall that Republicans do well with.

The real challenge is there is this group of women who are single women, perhaps they’re young, they’re professionals, maybe their income level would suggest that they should be a target for Republicans, but they for other demographic reasons are not and they feel that Republicans don’t get the economic challenges that they’re facing. And I think single women in particular – Republicans do reasonably well with married women, but single women is the big group where there’s a huge deficit, and so figuring out how to overcome that I think is the big challenge they’re facing.

MS OMERO: Right. And I think the question, when you look at single women, is it the fact that they’re single? Is it the fact that they are more racially diverse and ethnically diverse than married women? Is it the fact that they’re younger typically than married women? Is it something else about, like, hardship and being out there? There’s – there are a variety of theories as to, like, what is it? Is it simply the marital status alone or all the things that co-vary with marital status? But yeah, that is a big divide, as they say.

MODERATOR: We have time for one more question.

QUESTION: Can I ask about the – about the --

MODERATOR: Sure. We’ll go to Thomas.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the Republicans – I mean, millennial women in the Republican parties. Are they different? Probably. But how much they are different? And what is the – I mean, I don’t want the black and white, I want the grays, okay?

MS ANDERSON: So I think an interesting way to think about millennial Republican women – one, you have a lot of young women who are interested in things like entrepreneurship, starting their own business. They are pretty focused on fiscal issues. There was a Maureen Dowd column back in the 1990s that tried to differentiate between what she called mommy and daddy issues. And I think that those lines have been very blurred, and you have young women who care very deeply about things like taxes and spending. And in that way, I think Republicans have an interesting argument to make on some of these fiscal issues. But there is a sense of: Are Republicans in touch with the times and in touch with what it’s like to be a young woman who may be trying to structure her family in a way that was very different than what her parents or grandparents did?

So I think there are opportunities for Republicans to reach young women by talking about things like economic opportunity, individual liberty. But you have to as a party have a policy agenda that backs that up with real substance. And I think it’ll depend on who our nominee is to see if they put forward an agenda that really matches up with that.

QUESTION: I would just be curious about the technology part in the campaigning. What kind of platforms are popular among female – I would think that something like Snapchat is big with younger voters; Pinterest, Instagram more in the like kind of – for people like in their late 20s to 30s, and Facebook all over the place. Is that correct, or do you see something else where female voters could be targeted by the different campaigns?

MS ANDERSON: The data that I’ve seen – and this is coming from the Harvard Institute of Politics survey from I believe about a year ago – suggested that visual social – social – like, social networks that involve lots of visual sharing, whether it’s Pinterest of Instagram, tended to over-perform with young women, while a service like say Twitter was a little more evenly balanced if leaning more toward men. So that’s – the broad trend that I’ve seen from that data is that in particular things like Instagram have really exploded in popularity.

But I always caution people who want to read into the importance of social media. Look, I’m somebody that believes winning over young voters is key. Young voters are on social media; you have to meet them where they are. The reason why social media is so powerful in elections is not because it’s the new cool thing, but because it’s meeting people where they are and it lends a sort of personal, authentic touch to things.

You mentioned – we talked about authenticity before. If social media is a way to help people feel they have a one-on-one connection with a candidate instead of it going through the filter of the media or the filter of the campaign or just through a campaign ad, I think that’s where you have the potential for some of this to be powerful. But you can’t just take an old message and put it into a new medium and think it’s going to work. I think it really is about if you are already somebody who is able to convey authenticity, social media can help you amplify that.

MS OMERO: Right. I mean, if you’re a losing candidate, you can’t sort of Snapchat or micro-target your way to success by like some secret – some – there’s some secret path that doesn’t involve, like – you can circumvent the conventional wisdom and the fact that voters don’t like you or don’t like your message. That usually doesn’t work. But you can – it is fun to look at what some of the candidates do in a creative way to kind of find new voters and get them excited. I think candidates on the left do a good job. I think Clinton and Sanders have both done some fun things with Instagram and with Snapchat. And I think, like, Sanders got on Snapchat and is like, “What is Snapchat?” That was his first thing. And it’s fun to see candidates – not just presidential candidates but regular candidates, down-ballot candidates, use Twitter to engage – Cory Booker is an example of somebody that’s just beloved on Twitter because he just – he’s just out there, really engaging directly on Twitter. Claire McCaskill. These are obviously Democrats who do – I mean, Trump obviously owns Twitter for better or worse.

Now, again, typically that can’t replace things like television, although that may be becoming less true. And is that less true because television ads are less effective? Is it because the political television ads themselves right now are less effective? Is it because the candidates who are spending a lot of money on television ads? I don’t know if it’s as simple as saying “television doesn’t work; Snapchat and Twitter do.” I don’t think it’s quite that simple. I think there’s something else going on. I don’t think the fact that Bush wasn’t successful was because television’s not successful. I think he was not successful and he was therefore not successful on television. But I do think that it’s nonetheless worth exploring how television does this cycle relative to some of these other channels.

MODERATOR: We’ll take our last question from our New York Foreign Press Center. New York, go ahead, please.

QUESTION: Hello. Hello from New York. I’m Hajime Matsuura writing for Japan’s Sankei. If you take a look at the heights of the presidents historically, they tend to be very tall compared to average people. And according to a scholarly report I’ve read before, it’s because masculinity is attractive to the voters. I was wondering how this element is still attractive to the voters who we’re talking about today, given one of you mentioned safety, like, security issue, non-secure feelings of the female voters, or you also talked about the boots thing, the boots issue with Rubio as well. So whether the masculinity is, like, playing out very huge this year or not. If you can comment on that, I’d appreciate it.

MS ANDERSON: I think on the Republican side you’ve seen this unfortunate dynamic emerge where Donald Trump has been very successful by questioning his opponents in precisely sort of a juvenile way but in a way that speaks to perhaps their core weaknesses. So going after Jeb Bush as someone who’s low energy was sort of an attack on Jeb Bush’s ability to fight vigorously for the American people. Or going after Marco Rubio now as being sort of a little boy. He’s trying to convey through that that Marco Rubio is perhaps not experienced enough or up to the task of being president.

But I certainly don’t have data to suggest that a president’s height will or will not – a candidate’s height will or will not have an effect on their standing in this election.

MS OMERO: We can’t really run an experiment on it, unfortunately. So we could say, “Okay, here’s Donald Trump, here’s Donald Trump a couple inches shorter, a couple inches taller.” So – or for better or worse, we have the candidates that we have, it seems, so far.

MODERATOR: Thank you all. We’re going to end now. And we want to thank our speakers today.

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