One Month Out: Numbers to Watch for Women in Election 2018

November 2, 2018

With one month left until Election Day 2018, Gender Watch 2018 experts offer key data points that illuminate – or will illuminate on November 6th – the gender, race and/or intersectional dynamics at play in this year’s election. 

Speaking Honestly:  Vast majority say its essential
Christine Jahnke, Positive Communications

If there is one thing we can agree upon it’s that honesty still matters. The data point that gives me hope is the finding by the Pew Research Center that 91% of Americans believe “being honest and ethical is an essential quality of leadership.” It’s reassuring to know that in a time when the highest government officials show disdain for speaking the truth the vast majority of the public values this trait. Last month a poll showed only 19% of the public view Donald Trump as a source of unbiased and trustworthy information.

So, where can voters turn for honesty in government? While most people don’t think either gender has a better approach to leadership, Pew Research did find that women are seen as better role models.  For people who do see differences in the way men and women lead, women are given higher marks for being honest and ethical and for being able to maintain a civil and respectful tone.

This year’s record number of women Congressional candidates may be able to do something about restoring the public’s faith in their leaders. The candidates are a diverse mix of bartenders, small business owners, military veterans, and nurses who are running not to put a notch in a career belt but because they feel a personal obligation to restore order and civility. Most of these newcomers are Democrats and they are likely to determine which party will control Congress.  They also provide voters an opportunity to choose leaders who are ready to bring more honesty to politics.

A majority of Republican women support Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
Erin Cassese, University of Delaware

One data point worth thinking about right now is the percentage of Republican women supporting Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. After the conclusion of the Senate Confirmation Hearings, which featured powerful testimony from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, 70 percent of Republican women continued to support his confirmation. This figure suggests party, rather than gender, is playing an outsized role in Republican women’s political thinking heading into the midterms. This is consistent with existing research on white women voters and their persistent support for the Republican Party.

Would you vote for a candidate accused of sexual harassment? Depends on your partisanship.
Melissa Deckman, Washington College

The fallout over the Kavanaugh nomination will have lingering effects on voters this fall.  Here is some staggering data from PRRI, just released this week:

Among Democrats, 84 percent of women and 76 percent of men say they would definitely not vote for a candidate accused of sexual harassment by multiple women, even if they agree with them on issues.  Among Republicans, just 28 percent of men and 41 percent of women said this.

This point shows that party continues to matter far more than gender when it comes to voting, even on issues that have such a potential gendered angle.  Second, though, there is a fairly big gender gap among the GOP — while still not a majority, the fact that GOP women were less likely to vote for such a hypothetical candidate indicates to me that in races that are close, at least some defection this fall may be a crucial factor for Democrats running for office.

Women of color are just over a third of House nominees.
Christina Bejarano, University of Kansas

Two data points that illuminates intersectional dynamics in election 2018:

34% – The proportion of women nominees for the U.S. House that are women of color.

4.5% – The proportion of all U.S. House nominees that are women of color.

Looking ahead to Election Day, I’ll be watching for the proportion of women winners who are women of color compared to white women or minority men.

Leaving Latinas out?
Anna Sampaio, Santa Clara University

Here are two important data points to consider in understanding gender and race dynamics in election 2018:

2% – The percentage of candidates for national political office that are Latinas. Despite belonging to the largest and one of the fastest growing racial/ethnic minority populations in the U.S., Latinas are largely excluded from party structures and political incorporation strategies.

64% – the percentage of Latina voters nationwide who report having received no contact from a candidate, campaign, or political party this election cycle. This includes any outreach to either register or vote and includes door knocking, phone calls, mailers, email, text, or other contact. This also includes Latina voters in state such as California, Texas, and Florida with competitive congressional and Senate races where outreach and mobilization to this population can decide the outcome of these races.

In a record-breaking year for women, men remain overrepresented among general election nominees.
Kelly Dittmar, Center for American Women and Politics

While record numbers of women have run and won nominations across levels of office this year, they remain far from parity in their representation on this fall’s general election ballots. Women are: 32.4% of all nominees for the U.S. Senate, 28.7% of all nominees for the U.S. House, 21.9% of all nominees for governor, and 32.7% of all nominees for statewide elected executive offices.

But this underrepresentation of women is much starker among Republican nominees. While Democratic women represent between one-third and 43% of Democratic nominees across levels of office, Republican women are: 21.9% of all Republican nominees for the U.S. Senate, 13.3% of all Republican nominees for the U.S. House, 11.1% of all Republican nominees for governor, and 23.6% of all Republican nominees for statewide elected executive offices.

Progressive funds for Democratic women candidate far exceed resources for their Republican counterparts.
Rosalyn Cooperman, University of Mary Washington

Here’s the figure I’m looking at one month ahead of the 2018 midterms: 36.5 Million…as in dollars raised from individual contributions to EMILY’s List to support Democratic women congressional candidates.

This sum, filed in federal campaign finance reports, is as of August 2018 and is already nearly $5M ahead of the totals raised by EMILY’s List in 2016 when Hillary Clinton was the Democratic presidential nominee.

In other words, progressive donors are fired up about donating funds to Democratic women candidates running in 2018.

In contrast, contribution totals by conservative women’s PACs represent a small fraction of the funds raised by liberal women’s PACs, specifically EMILY’s List.

Questions for Election Day

How will white women vote?
Melissa Deckman, Washington College

I’ll be looking at how white women vote this fall, given that a slight majority broke for Trump in 2016 according to exit polls.  Historically, the white women’s vote has been more Republican than Democratic in recent midterms; will we see this change in response to Trump’s presidency and reaction to the Kavanaugh hearings?

Will young women turn out?
Christine Matthews, Bellwether Research

I am going to be looking at turnout among Millennial and Post-Millennial women. Just one-in-five voters under the age of 30 voted in the 2014 or 2010 midterm elections. Will 2018 be more of the same? We know from surveys we have conducted that Millennial women have been particularly energized by the #metoo movement and it is a motivating issue for them. Will the recent Supreme Court hearings for Brett Kavanaugh be a galvanizing moment for young women (and/or older women)– spurring them to turnout to vote when they otherwise might not, or will they be so disheartened that they feel like nothing they might do – vote or otherwise – will make a difference. The strength of the Democratic wave depends on their votes, along with those of college educated women.

How will education and partisanship shape women’s turnout?
Erin Cassese, University of Delaware

I’ll be interested to see turnout data for women based on their party and educational attainment. An NPR/PBS/Marist Poll conducted last week suggests that Republican women are just as motivated to vote in the midterms as Democratic women – about 80 percent of both report that the outcome of the midterm elections are “very important.” At the same time, there’s speculation that college-educated Republican women are growing disaffected. College educated women typically to turn out to vote at higher rates than women without college degrees so there’s a reasonable expectation that turnout will still be strong. It will be interesting to see how this intersection between gender, party, and education level plays out among women voters, and particularly white women voters.

Will women (of color) outraise their opponents?
Christina Bejarano, University of Kansas

I’ll be evaluating the ability of women candidates, especially women of color candidates, to outraise their male incumbent opponents. For example, Democrat Sharice Davids has outraised Congressman Yoder (R) for the most recent fundraising quarter in Kansas’ 3rd congressional district race.

Will women’s gains surpass those made in 1992?
Kelly Dittmar, Center for American Women and Politics

All of the talk of the “year of the woman” makes a comparison between 2018 and 1992 inevitable come Election Day 2018. Here are three numbers to watch in determining if gains for women in Congress in 2018 match the progress that was made in 1992:

28 the number of new (non-incumbent) women who were elected to Congress in 1992. This year, according to the most recent Cook Political Report ratings, 23 non-incumbent women candidates for Congress are favored to win. However, another 18 are running in contests currently deemed toss-ups.

4.1 – the percentage points in women’s congressional representation gained from pre-Election Day 1992 (5.8%) to inauguration day 1993 (9.9%). To match this gain in election 2018, women would need to reach 24.1% of representation in Congress, or 129 seats, up from the current number: 107 (20%). Importantly, 13 congresswomen are not nominees for their current seats in 2018, including 4 women House members who are competing as nominees for the U.S. Senate. This means that reaching 129 will require more than just 22 non-incumbent wins on Election Day 2018.

71% – the percentage increase in women’s congressional representation from pre-Election Day 1992 (31) to inauguration day 1993 (53). In order for women to match this percentage increase in 2018, they would have to reach 183 women in total between the U.S. House and Senate, up from the current number: 107.