Yandoli: Women fair remarkably well in 2012 election
President Barack Obama won the election on Tuesday, but he wasn’t the only winner that day. Women came out wildly victorious last week based on the policies and legislation that the president has put forward in favor of women, in addition to a number of other election results.
A record number of women were elected to the Senate. The 113th Congress consists of 20 female senators; Todd Akin, famous for his problematic comments about “legitimate rape,” lost to Claire McCaskill in Missouri; and Tammy Baldwin became the first openly gay female senator in Wisconsin.
All in all, women are coming out ahead, and most importantly these victories were at the hand of women voters themselves.
Female voters made up 54 percent of the electorate and ended up benefitting Obama by 11 percent, according to exit polls. This resulted in an 18-point gender gap, which is even wider than the 12-point gender gap in 2008.
Obama’s triumph with female voters was especially relevant in swing states. Women’s support in battleground locations like Ohio and New Hampshire gave Obama a significant advantage over Romney. Obama lost by 10 percentage points among independents in Ohio, but won by 12 points among women.
In New Hampshire, 58 percent of women voted for Obama and 42 percent voted for Romney, meanwhile men preferred Romney by only a 4-point gap. Even Pennsylvania showed a 16-point gender gap in favor of Obama.
This isn’t entirely surprising given the Republican Party’s problematic and controversial efforts to limit women’s reproductive rights while the Obama campaign has focused on women’s issues for the past year.
Mitt Romney campaigned on a platform that alienated female voters by remaining ambiguous when it came to equal pay, supporting laws that would allow employers the right to deny birth control coverage, and promising to defund Planned Parenthood.
The role of young people in this election was also crucial. Despite widespread assumptions about the youth lacking enthusiasm for the current political process, voters from ages 18 to 29 made up 19 percent of total voters on Election Day, a 1 percent increase from the 2008 presidential election.
Cecile Richard, president of Planned Parenthood, explained it best in a public statement last Tuesday: “This election sends a powerful and unmistakable message to members of Congress and state legislatures all around the country that the American people do not want politicians to meddle in our personal medical decisions.”
Actions speak louder than words, and the actions of both youth and women voters this November are representative of what young women are capable of achieving when they make their voices heard.
There’s no denying the series of important victories last Tuesday for women. Even though progress seems to be moving at a snail-like pace, it’s never been clearer that equality is within our reach if constituents pay attention to the issues and mobilize into action.
Krystie Yandoli is a senior women’s and gender studies and English and textual studies major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter at @KrystieLYandoli.
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