Immediately after John McCain announced that Sarah Palin was his choice for vice president, the media breathlessly reported Palin's ability to bring in the women's vote. Indeed, Palin herself asserted that she could attract some of those 18 million Hillary Clinton supporters because, presumably, women voters like to vote for women candidates. This often made proposition is demonstrably false and was so from the beginning. As polls after the Republican convention showed, partisanship is a much bigger determinant of how voters feel about Palin than gender and because men tend to identify with the Republican Party more than the Democratic Party, Palin actually has higher ratings among men than she does among women.
What about the white women's vote, a group that the media reported shifted to McCain/Palin in large numbers? In reality, there was much larger movement among white men than among white women. As we found in our battleground research for Democracy Corps, after the Democratic convention, 48 percent of white men supported McCain, a number that increased to 58 percent after the Republican convention. In contrast, the movement among white women was more muted. Just after the Democratic convention, white women supported Obama by 3 points, 48 to 45 percent. Those numbers flipped to 46 to 50 percent in McCain's favor after the Republican convention. Moreover, there is convincing evidence that Democratic voters who supported Hillary Clinton in the primaries moved to a place of even greater support to Barack Obama. The CBS News poll showed 63 percent of Hillary supporters would vote for Obama prior to the Republican convention; afterwards this number was 74 percent. In our Democracy Corps research, 83 percent of Clinton primary supporters now cast their vote for Obama.
No doubt, Obama needs to perform more strongly with women voters to win this election. In the battleground, he currently wins women voters by 5 points; Kerry only won women by 3 points, while Clinton won women by 7 points in 1992. But as we found in our research for Women's Voices. Women's Vote, women voters still have many questions about Sarah Palin, including what are she and John McCain going to make their lives better in anxious economic times. They think highly of her commitment to family, but want to know if this makes her able to understand their daily struggles to make ends meet and their future more secure. Many women voters find much to admire about Palin, but that does not mean they will vote for her without knowing what it would mean to their lives.