McCain and Palin Want Women’s Votes But Do Women Want Them?

Women’s Voices, Women Vote (WVWV) are encouraging the unmarried women of America to unify around a set of core issues and vote. Through its "Unmarried Women’s Agenda" that includes equal pay, expanded health care coverage and investments in public education, WVWV is hoping to reach this particular voting bloc this election season. But why?

According to WVWV, unmarried women "have the potential to elect the next President."

In an email, WVWV writes that "While married women favored McCain over Barack Obama by 49 to 42 percent, unmarried women supported Obama over McCain by 60 to 30 percent…Numbering 53 million, these single, separated, divorced and widowed women represent 26 percent of the voting age population." Add to this that for the first time in history, almost as many adult American women are unmarried as married, and we can see why Sarah Palin may have been a political choice for the GOP. But was it the right one?

The GOP leadership and social conservative movement have thrust Sarah Palin, Republican Vice Presidential candidate, front and center into the spotlight. But, of course, this election – as any election – should not be about the candidates as much as it is about us – Americans on the receiving end of these candidates’ policy stances. With that in mind, there are a host of critical reproductive and sexual health and rights and family policies in play about which Americans deserve to know where each set of candidates stand; issues like access to health care, teen pregnancy prevention programs, federal funding of contraception, comprehensive sexuality education, equal pay for women, child care subsidies, ensuring access to pre-K for all and more.

But instead of clear policy stances on these issues at the GOP convention or in the surrounding media attention what we have been privy to are endless distractions about Sarah Palin’s family, the personal matters and private choices Ms. Palin and her family have made over the last few months and a religious right bloc that has firmly cemented their support for said choices – support that falls in direct conflict with the rhetoric, agenda and policies they promote for the rest of American families.

Progressive bloggers and a handful of journalists have attempted to link Palin’s familial issues to concrete policy questions specifically related to women’s health and family support services including those issues above that "did not make the cut" at the Republican National Convention.

The McCain campaign has been vocal about Sarah Palin as a woman who "understands what women go through, the struggles they have, the issues they face every day." Positioning Palin as a hockey-mom/mother of a special needs child, the campaign believes they can win over undecided female voters with this message. But it seems that women are not buying it.

According to a recent poll, six in ten female voters in the U.S. see McCain’s pick of Sarah Palin for Vice Presidential running mate as driven by politics "rather than any sense of conviction on John McCain’s part that she has the experience and qualities to make a good vice-president." In addition, 56% of the women polled said they were "put off" by Palin’s legislative record as well as her stances on a range of moral issues. 

Women – undecided or independent, married or unmarried – don’t want to just be able to relate to a Vice President as if she’s their college roommate or friend next door. They want to know what a President and Vice President will actually do to help them with the "struggles they have" and "the issues they face every day." What kinds of issues?

The Economics of Womanhood

Women are still paid less per dollar than their male counterparts for work of equal value. This varies dramatically, of course, depending on what the color of your skin is, and what your ethnic background is. Women makes 77 cents for every one dollar a man in a comparable position brings in – and the amount decreases for African-American women and Latina women. With recent reports of a skyrocketing unemployment rate, and the fact that the majority of those in poverty are women and children, it is relevant, in fact critical, that American families know how a McCain/Palin administration would prioritize this issue. The Lily Ledbetter Act was strongly supported by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both. Yet John McCain voted against it. And while Sarah Palin has undoubtedly (and respectfully) become the success she is through hard work, we have yet to hear from her why the campaign she’s joined votes against ensuring equal pay for women. John McCain and Sarah Palin want women to "relate" to Palin and yet when it comes time to showing women that Palin is "just like us", their policy stances fail them.  A McCain/Palin ticket does not support policies that would allow other women – younger or older, married mothers, married women, single women – to be paid a fair wage. John McCain proudly stands next to his female running mate leveraging her gender as a political tool but where is his pride in ensuring economic equity for all other American women?

Family and Educational Services

Sarah Palin has made no effort to downplay her role as a mother to a special needs child. In fact, she placed it front and center in her speech at the convention and vowed to other parents of special needs children that they would "have a friend in the White House." This is another arena in which, presumably, the McCain campaign would have women relate to Palin as an every day mother. Again, the only way it really matters to most Americans that Palin relate to them is through the policies she would support as part of a McCain administration. Does Palin support access to programs that would help families of special needs children who do not have the resources her family has? Does she support access to education for all? Since Palin has not, as of yet, chosen to discuss the policy implications of much of her rhetoric, it’s hard to know.

We do know that she leads one of only ten states that do not fund universal pre-K for children, despite evidence that shows the overwhelming benefits. As Governor, Palin also cut funding to Alaska Family Services – an organization benefiting thousands of Alaskan families through a range of social service programs. 

We also know that John McCain has not supported legislation in the past guaranteeing paid sick days for American workers, or paid family leave so that young mothers and fathers can rely on an income and time with their families immediately after a baby is born (or so a family can care for a special needs child that may require extra time and attention).

John McCain has voted against funding health insurance for needy children arguing on the Senate floor that SCHIP – the State Children’s Health Insurance Program – should not be expanded to ensure that millions of uninsured children receive health care coverage. McCain opposed reauthorizing the program, as well, on the grounds that it was too expensive. 

He has a vague understanding that he "thinks he supports whatever the President supports" in regards to sexual health education (and the effectiveness of condoms in preventing HIV/AIDS) – he’s not sure that condoms stop the spread of AIDS and there should be no sexual health education in schools for young people. The McCain-Palin ticket supports abstinence-only programs that do not provide information to young people about how to prevent against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections if they are sexually active.

Reproductive and Sexual Health Care and Education

Despite knowing almost everything there is to know about Sarah Palin’s 17 year old daughter’s pregnancy, discussion has rarely turned to how the reproductive and sexual health care of women and their families might fare under a McCain/Palin administration. John McCain has consistently voted against funding for teen-pregnancy prevention programs including one in 2006 that would have provided $100 million for pregnancy prevention in the form of education and information and one in 2005 that included education on emergency contraception and a requirement that insurance companies that cover Viagra also cover prescription contraception for women.  

Sarah Palin also opposes funding for teen pregnancy prevention, stating "the explicit sex ed programs will not find my support." As Governor, Palin also cut funding for the Covenant House, a program that includes transitional housing for teenage mothers and their babies, by 20%.

And, as Lynda Waddington notes on Iowa Independent, while Palin does not believe women should have access to abortion services even if they are the victims of rape or incest "her view…could be termed almost moderate when contrasted with the Republican Party Platform adopted…in Minneapolis" – a platform that presumably Palin and McCain support.

Looking For A Few Good Women’s Votes

Ultimately, women have the power to decide this election. 

In a national survey conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner of 1356 women voters, between September 2nd and 3rd, and focus groups following Sarah Palin’s acceptance speech, the Republican ticket did not fare too well:

According to the Executive Summary, "…the selection of Palin is seen positively by women voters, it is also the case that her selection has given little lift to the Republican ticket and significant questions remain about her to be answered…Women voters, married and unmarried alike…wonder what she stood for and how she would address American’s most pressing problems." [emphasis mine]

Even more telling, the summary noted that after Palin’s RNC speech, unmarried women – those women who are crucial to pick up this election season – feel "she did not sufficiently address key issues in their lives."

As undecided and/or independent female voters, examine the issues in their own lives that demand attention from a new administration, they are simultaneously questioning what a McCain/Palin administration would offer.  In 2008 as in 2004 the women’s vote is, as Women’s Voices Women Vote writes, "up for grabs" though it’s clear, from what we do know about McCain and Palin, that many women are turned off already. It’s uncertain if the majority of women will buy what John McCain and Sarah Palin are selling. If the McCain/Palin duo wants to grab "the women’s vote", it’s clear their policies stances, not their gender make-up, will need to change to reflect this priority. 

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  • invalid-0

    McCain and Palin lie, cheat, and steal habibually and thoughtlessly. There are everything that is wrong with this world.

  • invalid-0

    I think that the McCain camp is counting on Hillary’s followers to vote for Palin just because she is a woman.
    To quote Andrea Mitchell who is the spouse of ultra conservative Alan Greenspan “Sarah Palin will only appeal to uneducated women, not educated ones” (Huston, T).

    I have no interest in voting for this hypocritical woman who preaches abstinence-only programs and yet her own daughter is pregnant. Abstinence only is just not realistic.

    “Sarah Palin declared that she would not support an abortion for her own daughter even if she had been raped”(huffington post).

    This womans “values” are just too extreme for me!


  • invalid-0

    Well good thing for men:

    Over half of U.S. voters (51%) think reporters(like you, I wonder why?) are trying to hurt Sarah Palin with their news coverage, and 24% say those stories make them more likely to vote for Republican presidential candidate John McCain in November.

    Thirty-nine percent (39%) also believe the GOP vice presidential nominee has better experience to be president of the United States than Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.

    USA Today-Gallup, national presidential race among registered voters
    THE NUMBERS: John McCain 50 percent, Barack Obama 46 percent
    Eleven point gain.

    The addition of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to the Republican ticket led 29 percent of voters to say they were more likely to vote for McCain.

    THE POLL: Gallup Poll daily tracking results, national presidential race among registered voters

    THE NUMBERS: John McCain 49 percent, Barack Obama 44 percent
    Eleven point gain.

  • invalid-0

    I’m one of those middle-aged women who supported Hilary. If McCain thinks he’s going to get my vote (and I hope other women who supported Hilary agree with me….I can’t help but think that most of them do), he better think again. Why in the world would I vote for a woman who’s ideas are polar opposites to the woman I hoped would become President? Palin is way too conservative for me. At the same time, she is not nearly experienced enough to fill the shoes of a deceased or incapacitated President (McCain is not a young man) in the event of a an emergency. Mine is one Hilary vote that will not go to McCain-Palin.

  • invalid-0

    I think of myself as a Republican, yet I’m another middle-aged woman who will not vote McCain-Palin. And I’m a hockey mom as well!! She’s far too conservative even for me. And she’s hypocritical. Her daughter’s baby will be paid for by her mother’s government insurance, yet Palin has cut money for young mothers in need. And I’ve just learned that with her most recent birth, her water broke 11 hours BEFORE she went to the hospital (actually she was giving a speech when it broke). Yet, women lose their children and, yes, even go to prison for neglect in very similar circumstances. She is elitist and hypocritical….I, for one, can’t take her. So, this Republican is going to vote for Obama-Biden.

  • invalid-0

    Ditto for me. I’m middle aged. I’ve voted Republican in the past. I’m a hockey mom. This year I will vote for Barack Obama. I believe it’s the only way to go and I’m systematically working on all my women friends to convince them to vote with me!

  • invalid-0

    So…you think that because Palin tried to decrease the scope of state/federal babysitting programs (pre-K, health care, etc.) and won’t institute more government red tape, fiat money, inflation, corruption, beaurocracy, and invasion/communism/socialism she is unfit for office. Well…how about privitizing everything. Let the free market take over. Then, companies would not be government subsidized, and would have to actually compete for buyers. We could look for the lowest prices, and the best (lowest with best quality) would get the most buyers.

    About abstinance education:
    Abstinance= no sex…that would mean that there would be no need for condoms, or prevention of diseases. It is foolproof.

    Rape is an entirely diffrent situation and comparing it to the issue of abstinance education is like saying that teaching reading is not effective because children won’t learn every languge there is. Obviously, there are other situations where other languages might need to be used, but teaching english is not a detriment in any way.

    In cases of rape-which is a CRIME, not a choice, there can be steps taken to reduce the bad results. If abstinance id encouraged and the fool proof results shown ( sex no pregnancy) common sense should catch on.

    Oh…and as to getting rid of rape….how about some serious penalties. How about fines of hundreds of thousands of $$$$$. I’ll bet you guys would think twice about doing it.

  • invalid-0

    You should learn how to construct a sentence before you try to respond to these posts, and what about spell check?
    Good grief, your response is full of errors!
    It is actually laughable (lol as you say) because no one will take your response seriously.
    Unfortunately, you are in the class as so many are: Uneducated Right Winger!

  • invalid-0

    You are so right, that post is full of grammatical and spelling errors! It is laughable!

  • invalid-0

    Why would any thinking person want to vote for a ticket that has candidates who hold such ultra-conservative views regarding women, and who–if elected, have the potential to vote for Supreme Court justices who would likely roll back all the progress women have achieved in the last century? Their views are misogynistic and an insult to those who make up half of humanity.

    The needle that broke the haystack for me involved both women and men, when it was revealed that Gov. Palin, when she was mayor, had asked the librarian to not have certain books around, and when the librarian refused, Mayor Palin fired (or threatened to fire?) the librarian! :-(

    So not only does she insult women, she insults everyone by wanting to impose her beliefs that they shouldn’t read certain literature because those books go against her personal or religious beliefs, and heaven forbid other people might get potentially poisonous ideas opposite to hers! How condescending can one be? Does she think we’re all so stupid we can’t think for ourselves? That the public needs to be told what to read? It’s disrepectful.

  • invalid-0

    Ok, let’s just get off this Abstinence as effective birth control and STD prevention bandwagon once and for all.

    News Flash: People have sex. They have always had sex and they will always have sex. They will have sex before marriage, during marriage, outside of marriage, and with multiple people in their lifetimes. This is not a new phenomena; according to a very large survey (‘ll provide a link later) our grandparents and great-grandparents were having sex before marriage. In fact, the sexual drive we are all born with is the product of hundreds of thousands of years of trying to preserve our species. There is no way that some cute little tag line such as Abstinence = no sex = foolproof can be taken seriously. I know I’m going to continue having sex with my boyfried even though we don’t want kids. I had sex all through my marriage while again, trying my best to make sure no pregnancies resulted. Are you seriously telling all adults and married couples to not have sex if they aren’t prepared TODAY to be pregnant and make “the choice”? We’ve been operating under the “should be” paradigm for the last 8 years. Let’s now try operating under “what actually is” paradigm and see if we can’t solve some problems.

    My suggestion: Reduce the number of unwanted/unintended pregnancies. To do that, birth control pills would be as easy to get as Tylenol, kids are fully educated on birth control/STD prevention options and people try to speak openly and honestly about sexuality.

    My opinion of Palin is that she is a gimmick and stands for nothing but herself. She would do great harm to women and our progress over the past 100 years and McCain/Palin certainly will not get my vote.

  • invalid-0

    Even though I am a Democrat, I would consider voting for a Republican if I thought that they were the better candidate.
    Palin’s views are way too extreme for me, and what is with her 1950’s mentality not believing in equal pay?

    The fact is that McCain is up there in age, so he could unfortunately die in office. Do we really want this woman and her extreme views in office? I think not!

  • invalid-0

    Here is the press release from the Guttmacher Institute regarding this study.

    120 Wall Street, New York, NY 10005
    Ph 212 248 1111 Fax 212 248 1951
    Rebecca Wind

    Tuesday, December 19, 2006
    “The vast majority of Americans have sex before marriage, including those who abstained from sex during their teenage years, according to “Trends in Premarital Sex in the United States, 1954–2003,” by Lawrence B. Finer, published in the January/February 2007 issue of Public Health Reports. Further, contrary to the public perception that premarital sex is much more common now than in the past, the study shows that even among women who were born in the 1940s, nearly nine in 10 had sex before marriage.

    The new study uses data from several rounds of the federal National Survey of Family Growth to examine sexual behavior before marriage, and how it has changed over time. According to the analysis, by age 44, 99% of respondents had had sex, and 95% had done so before marriage. Even among those who abstained from sex until age 20 or older, 81% had had premarital sex by age 44.

    “This is reality-check research. Premarital sex is normal behavior for the vast majority of Americans, and has been for decades,” says study author Lawrence Finer, director of domestic research at the Guttmacher Institute. “The data clearly show that the majority of older teens and adults have already had sex before marriage, which calls into question the federal government’s funding of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs for 12–29-year-olds. It would be more effective to provide young people with the skills and information they need to be safe once they become sexually active—which nearly everyone eventually will.”

    Indeed, while the likelihood that Americans will have sex before marriage has remained virtually unchanged since the 1950s, people now wait longer to get married, so they are sexually active and unmarried for much longer than in the past. During this period, Dr. Finer concludes, young adults have an especially great need for accurate information about how to protect themselves against unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.”

  • invalid-0

    Jon Stewart and Samantha Bee explain it quite clearly. See:

  • invalid-0

    yeah, whatever, dude.
    if the american people want to ignore substance like issues (and palin’s stance on issues that affect the reproductive health of millions of women – not just one who go to church) is important.

    too bad you don’t think so.

  • invalid-0

    Can’t help but wonder what component of the american public is picked to obtain some of the results of the recent polls. I am a married, middle aged independent voter living in AZ who is not going to vote for Senator McCain or his running mate Ms. Palin and although I know people that are going to vote for the republican ticket, I know many more that are not.

    I really don’t understand why the women of this country would be so willing to lay down all of the rights that we have fought so hard for and are still fighting for a women who believes in none of the principles that have put women where they are today (equal pay, freedom of choice). And if that was not enough then there are her views on the environment, endangered species and the NRA.

    Not a lot of difference to me in those people that stalk innocent animals to kill and those that stalk and kill humans; and why do they do this, because they can. Tell me people, do we really want this kind of individual one heartbeat away from becoming the president of the united states. I don”t.

    • invalid-0

      “I really don’t understand why the women of this country would be so willing to lay down all of the rights that we have fought so hard for and are still fighting for a women who believes in none of the principles that have put women where they are today (equal pay, freedom of choice). And if that was not enough then there are her views on the environment, endangered species and the NRA.”

      Well the good news is that most women aren’t voting for her. I believe Obama had something in the neighborhood of a 15 point lead amongst women voters before the last debate and then the foolish McCain choose to mock the very notion of laws designed to protect a pregnant woman’s health. While that’s a line that goes over well with his zygote worshiping base most women recognise the over the top fanaticism we’ve learned to protect our children from.

  • invalid-0

    I was never going to vote for John McCain anyway, but as this campaign has progressed, he has provided me with less and less reason to give him my vote. He has run a dishonest and dishonorable campaign, and the selection of a right-wing ideologue underscores his cynicism in playing women. The bottom line is that no matter who the vice presidential candidate is, McCain is at the top of the ticket. So, voting for that ticket would mean again endorsing the same regressive, backward-looking policies that have caused us so much economic chaos, as well as the divisive cultural wars the Republicans like so much.

  • invalid-0

    I also had no interest in voting for McCain, but the fact that McCain has no knowledge of Economic policies is extremely scary considering that we already have an $800 billion dollar deficit.
    We do not need another 4-8 years of “the same”, we deserve a change! Someone who could lead us in the “right direction”!

  • invalid-0

    Any working person of _either_ gender who buys into McSame/Barracuda is like a chicken voting for Col. Sanders.

  • invalid-0

    I wear lipstick, and I’m voting for Obama ( I don’t lionize him,though). The woman is a gender-traitor. I Have Spoken!

  • invalid-0

    This reminds me of when Palin brought up the Starbucks quote in a cheap attempt to shame other women into voting for her. Well they contact the author of the quote who said that an Obama/Biden ticket was much better for women.

  • invalid-0

    Barack just needs to sit back knowing that women will not vote for another woman for a President or VP position. Many studies show that women will not vote for a woman because they are jealous of other women that are in power. In addition they do not believe women can handle such a difficult position. Kind of crazy how when women look back at what is holding them back in society it is themselves!

  • invalid-0

    I don’t believe your “many studies” showing any such thing and I come from a state with a majority of women politicians. The thing is, they’re NOT conservative republicans. That’s because women vote in our own best interests and the GOP platform is antithetical to our survival.

    Why would we vote for a shallow and ignorant fanatic who abuses power so reflexively and lies so frequently? I understand why republican males would find her attractive but, having almost destroyed our country fortunately you folks are in the political wilderness for quite some time to come. And good riddance.