Turning Point: The Changing Landscape for Women Candidates (2010)

Voter Spotlight

Younger women voters and Independent voters

Younger women

A decade ago, we reported that younger women were among those voter groups with the strongest preference for a woman candidate, and suggested that higher turnout among young women was a strategy to combat high turnout among voters biased against women.
In 2010, women under 50 were less likely than those over 50 to vote for the woman candidate. Younger women ages 18 to 34 expressed a slight preference and slight enthusiasm for women candidates, but that preference was not borne out in their actual voting behavior. “Baby boom” generation women over the age of 50 were the most supportive group of voters for women candidates.

{chart no. 9} Younger women give the Democratic women advantages on a number of key attributes, though they dip down significantly on sharing your values.

The charts on candidate trait and issue advantages are calculated as the difference between the vote margin and trait advantage margin. For example, if the vote margin is +10 points Democratic, then a trait margin of +15 points Democratic results in an overall net Democratic advantage of 5 points. A trait margin of +3 points Democratic results in a net Democratic advantage of -7 points.

Typically, younger women were less engaged in this non- presidential year than they were in 2008. A significant number of young women ages 18 to 34 decided their vote in the last month before the election, suggesting that campaigns should delay ads and other paid communication targeting these voters until later in the campaign.

Younger women were surprisingly strong in their desire for a Governor with past government experience. Fifty-seven percent of young women voters said they preferred a candidate with past experience, while only 26% said they wanted to see someone new to government. Younger women gave Democratic women running against Republican men the largest advantage on likeability, not having run a negative campaign, being in touch with their lives, working with the state legislature, and not being too partisan.

By large margins, young women believed that Republican women who faced Democratic men were political outsiders, tough, and also not likely to be typical politicians. They also credited Democratic women who faced Republican men with being honest, less partisan, and less likely to be typical politicians.

Independent voters

One of the fastest growing subsets of voters, Independents have become key to winning in many races. In 2010, Independent women were more likely than Independent men to vote for a woman of either party. In seven of eight states with women candidates in Governors races, Independent voters voted Republican. In Maine, the only state with a competitive Independent candidate in the general election, voters favored the Independent candidate.

Independent voters saw women candidates as less likely to run a negative campaign and more likely to share voters’ values. For Independent voters, honesty and being ethical were traits that predicted the vote.

{chart no. 10} By large margins, younger women however give Republican women the advantage on leadership traits and as political outsiders, toughness, and less likely to be typical politicians.

The charts on candidate trait and issue advantages are calculated as the difference between the vote margin and trait advantage margin. For example, if the vote margin is +10 points Democratic, then a trait margin of +15 points Democratic results in an overall net Democratic advantage of 5 points. A trait margin of +3 points Democratic results in a net Democratic advantage of -7 points.