Women bloggers to presidential candidates: Stop ignoring us and don't pander if you want our votes

Women bloggers to presidential candidates: Stop ignoring us and don't pander if you want our votes
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In response to BlogHer's ongoing survey, "Should BlogHer interview presidential candidates or stick to their spouses?," women in this community have sent a clear message to presidential candidates to "wake up to the blogosphere" and answer 12 policy questions, either via video or the printed word.

In dozens of blog comments here, here and in this survey, respondents also urged candidates not to "ignore" women, and to start reaching out to existing and influential communities of women online (where most say they get their news), rather than creating candidate-specific sites that "pander" to women or moms specifically. Finally, the grand majority of women who voted reject interviews with potential First Spouses unless candidates participate too.

We gave women bloggers the final word on the survey, asking in our final question, "Do you have a message for the candidates about reaching women online that you'd like to share?" The answers are blunt and demanding; As of 10 a.m. Friday Dec. 21, members of this community cast 276 votes, including 118 open-ended comments to this question. Here's a representative sample of messages to candidates entered into the survey ( full survey results here):

Do you have a message for the candidates about reaching women online that you'd like to share?

"Yes. Stop expecting that we will be happy with hearing from your spouses and surrogates. If you have the time to talk directly with mostly male outlets, then you should have the time for us -- especially since we are 52% of the population and you need our votes to win this election."

"Women who are already online aren't looking for cutesy websites pandering to us. We're looking for you to come to us -- where we already are online -- and talk about real issues."

"I'm going to chalk it up to ignorance - we're not just women, we're women bloggers with the potential to reach tens of thousands more voters. Not just female voters either. Shockingly, I have male readers too."

"We (you and us) need this important opportunity to hear on another. We are women that wear many hats and part of a unique generation - mothers, businesswomen, wives (sometimes all!) who carry our weight in this country. We need to understand who you are because we're going to talk about you one way or another, and we are LOUD."

"To ignore organizations like BlogHer is to ignore the power of women who blog. Candidates, you're underestimating this important group if you think we have short memories and no influence!" Read all responses

When I announced the survey on BlogHer.com last week, I wrote that "our political team is confused by the response of presidential candidates to BlogHer, and to some other organizations and blogs by women. For the past six months, BlogHer has invited seven leading presidential candidates -- Democratic and Republican, we're non-partisan -- to participate with BlogHer's influential, passionate community of now 7.6 million techno-savvy women, who write and read thousands of influential blogs. While our editors, Morra Aarons-Mele and Mary Katharine Ham have made in-roads with the campaigns and we do have another year until Election Day, at this point we've been told no, both in words and in actions, as have some other women's blogs and political groups."

Fully 94 percent of respondents to this survey indicated that, one way or another, they want to hear from the candidate whose name is on the ballot. Of this 94 percent, more than 64 percent of respondents said they prefer BlogHer to talk with the candidates only, followed by bloggers who said "Both" candidates and spouses (nearly 30 percent),. The answer "Spouses and supporters" earned only 2.6 percent of respondent support:

Do you want BlogHer to talk with the candidates themselves -- Obama, Hillary, Mitt, etc.-- or will their families and supporters -- Oprah, Chelsea, Ann, etc. -- do? Full survey results


Spouses and supporters2.55%


Other 3.27%

While bloggers were insistent in their survey votes and comments that they want presidential candidates to talk with the BlogHer community, bloggers hit an understanding note about how candidates could participate, with roughly the same number of bloggers saying they want candidates answer on video (44 percent) as bloggers who say they want candidates to answer in print (43 percent):

Do you want presidential candidates to answer policy questions in the Voter Manifesto? Full survey results

Yes on video43.91%

Yes in print43.17%

No, the candidates don't have to but the campaign should10.70%

No, I have a different question I want to ask the candidate2.21%

Some of the strongest responses elicited by BlogHer's survey came in response to the question of whether women bloggers are turned on or turned off by candidate tactics to reach women and moms specifically. To date, 56 percent responded that they are "turned off by these efforts" and 18 percent said they "like" these efforts. Another 25 percent of respondents selected "Other" and wrote passionate feedback, some pro, mostly con, about campaign messaging they found on sites such as "Women for Obama" and "Moms for Hillary." Many women indicated they want women treated as voters, regardless of gender: "Women should be reached out to as equals to men, not as a minority." Other women wrote in the "Other" category that they like these efforts and feel candidates could benefit -- even though some supportive respondents found the content lacking. One woman wrote about Moms for Hillary, "Fine idea, poor execution. Do moms require exclamation points? Because I sort of thought we were interested in family-friendly social policy more than by exciting! nights! out! with our friends!"

Are you turned on or turned off by the candidate's tactics to reach women and moms specifically (described here)? Full survey results

I like efforts like "Women for Obama" and "Moms for Hillary"18.38%

I'm turned off by these efforts55.88%

Other response: 25.74%

Across the board, whether respondents want to interview spouses or not, or like women-focused outreach by campaigns, bloggers who took the survey are strongly urging candidates and campaigns to take women online "seriously" in the ten months remaining until the next presidential election, and not to "patronize" or "pander" to women voters. While comments are as diverse as the women who make up the majority of Internet users and American voters, four strong themes emerged:

Women who blog say: Reach out to established women's online networks - don't create new ones

Survey response: "If you truly want to reach women, moms particularly, you have to come to them, especially online. By only doing it "your way," i.e., on your own Web sites, you are doing your campaign a disservice. You show that you are out of touch with where women are and what they care about."

Survey response: "I'd have to say they [presidential campaigns] are missing an incredible opportunity here. Most of us don't have the time to sit down and watch a televised debate but catching a clip on the internet is doable."

Blogged by JustPowers: "I... am ok with campaigns "reaching out" with targeted websites to women and moms . What I don't like or understand is the campaigns NOT taking advantage of this community of 7.6 million women bloggers who are looking for feedback. We are organized and engaged and ready to listen to them. They didn't even have to go to the trouble of setting up their own websites, just come to ours!" more

Women who blog say: Don't separate women out as "moms" or "singles" or (worse) a monolithic block that thinks and votes alike

Survey response: "I don't need to be set apart as a woman or mom - I just want to be addressed as a VOTER. That should be all the candidates are concerned with."

Survey response: "Not all women are mothers and/o married. Reach out to single women and women without children as well."

Blogged by Tacomamama: "On the Blogher candidates issue: As a mother, I am tired of being treated like a novelty voter, more interested in a spouse's chocolate chip cookie recipe than any real issues. As a woman, the thought that campaigns have extended this novelty voter block treatment to our entire gender is both offensive and surreal. When did we wind the clock back to 1920?" more

Women who blog say: Meet the new so-called women's issues

"I want to know where you as a candidate for president stand. Not where you think i want you to stand, but exactly what your opinions are on Iraq, the Economy, education and health care. Contrary to popular belief, you are running for president, not God. You don't get to do it alone. You have to work with Congress. I want to know where you will lead us."

Blogged by Nerd's Eye View: "I am sick to death of seeing all the campaigning instead of action in Washington. War? Civil rights? Health care? Anyone? I seem to remember a campaign promise from these very same Senators about making change in Congress if gave them the power. Where's my change? Are the candidates doing any work right now besides campaigning that shows I should promote them to President?" more

Women who blog say: We are influential

Survey response: "Women who blog online have more influence than I think some campaigns understand. We are often quite independent thinkers and will take the time to seriously evaluate candidates."

Survey response: "To ignore organizations like BlogHer is to ignore the power of women who blog. Candidates, you're underestimating this important group if you think we have short memories and no influence!"

Blogged by Jill Zimon: "I'm partly baffled at how they don't work harder to find a way to leverage BlogHer - not in a manipulative way, but in a democractic way, with a little "d." Maybe it just seems too natural to me, that this is how it should be, between voter and candidate. But I prefer to think that it's just been wrangled by professional candidate wranglers for too long (and I do like political consultants and so on - I don't think they are as evil as others would have us believe)." more

Related posts:

We invite you to read the full survey responses by women who voted by 10 a.m. Friday, Dec. 21. We're keeping the polls open, and would love to hear what you think. Based on this feedback, we're excited to press ahead with our goal of taking BlogHer's Voter Manifesto to the candidates.

While we wait to hear back from the candidates, we're excited to dig into the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries on our Election 2008 center. If you live in an early primary state, we invite you to leave your blog URL and tease your latest posts -- we'd love to know how you think the campaign is going.

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