Washington, DC Ð Women voters led the way in the 2006 midterm elections. The gender gap was significant in changing the balance of power. And, every feminist is very proud that the first woman Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, is a supporter of women’s rights and a self-identified feminist.
“If only men voted, Jim Webb (D-VA), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) would have lost, and the Republicans would still control the Senate,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation and publisher of Ms. magazine. “In the 2006 election, in key races, women were the deciders.”
In the Webb/Allen race, 55 percent of the women voted for Jim Webb, and only 45 percent of the men did Ð for a whopping 10 percent gender gap. The African-American women’s vote was the determining factor in Webb’s victory in Virginia. The gender gaps were smaller but still a factor in the Tester/Burns race (52 percent of women voted for Tester and only 48 percent of the men voted for Tester, for a 4 percent gender gap) and in the McCaskill/Talent race (51 percent of women voted for McCaskill while 46 percent of men did the same, for a 5 percent gender gap).
Women’s votes also led the way in key House races. According to the Ms. Magazine/Women Donors Network (WDN) nationwide exit poll, 55 percent of women voted for the Democratic candidates while only 50 percent of men voted for Democrats, for a 5-point gender gap. In close races, this was a decisive margin.
According to the Ms./WDN poll, women felt more strongly about the importance of the first woman Speaker (54 percent important to 45 percent not important), while men lagged behind (43 percent important to 56 percent not important), for an 11 percent gender gap. On many of the key issues, such as the importance of the Iraq war, there were significant gender gaps. In fact, the same-sex marriage ban in Arizona went down because of women’s votes (53 percent of women voted ‘no’ while only 50 percent of men did).
Not only were women voters leading the way, but also women’s organizations. Women’s groups, including the Feminist Majority Foundation, worked to defeat decisively the abortion ban in South Dakota by 56 percent to 44 percent and the parental notification ballot measures in California and Oregon (both were defeated by 54 percent to 46 percent). Moreover, 21 of the 28 new Democratic members of the House are pro-choice, as are seven of the eight new Democratic Senators.
The Feminist Majority Foundation organized a nationwide Get Out Her Vote effort for college students, especially young women. We are proud to report that young people (18-29 years old) increased their voting by 24 percent over the last midterm election in 2002. In other words, some 2 million more young people voted in 2006, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE).