April 23rd, 2008
09:14 PM ET

Pennsylvania and the Gender Gap

Lisa Witter
COO of Fenton Communications and co-author, The She Spot: Why Women are the Secret to Changing the World and How to Reach Them

Women were 59% of the voters in last night’s Pennsylvania primary and 57% of them voted for Hillary Clinton. There clearly is a gender gap in this primary election, but it’s not necessarily what you think.

Women, overall, don’t necessarily default to the female candidate, despite conventional wisdom. Only 4% of those exit-polled said gender was most important to their decision, and 15% said it was only one of several factors considered. Of those 15%, 72% of them voted for Hillary. So, if gender is your thing, then you put Hillary’s XX chromosomes in the mix, but there are other important reasons women voted for Hillary last night and why the female voter seemed to be galvanizing around her.

When it comes to picking a candidate, women are tougher customers. Despite the stereotype that they respond best to the themes of "making Her-story," women actually care more about the substance and details of a candidate’s position on the issues than men do.

While Obama is good on inspiration and optimism, Hillary gets more down and dirty on the economy, tax policy and education. This is especially true during the final stretches of the campaigns. And this could be one of the reasons why last minute voters went to Hillary.

Women also want the candidate who they can connect with and who shows them that they care. Last night Clinton won 56% of voters who ranked “cares about people” as their top candidate quality. Clinton also beat Obama (barely) in exit-polls on how in touch the candidate is with people like you.

Also, women like candidates who speak to their desire for control over their lives. In Hillary’s victory speech she noted that she was in the race to “fight for anyone who has been counted out.” Most women, at one point or another in their careers, have felt that glass ceiling and can relate to the underdog messaging. She connected with their sense of wanting control.

With Indiana and North Carolina around the corner, if Obama wants to chip further into Hillary’s gender gap he doesn’t need to worry about being a man. What he does need to do is give women voters more details on policy and do a better job of communicating that he understands their real life situation.

Research shows that women are more skeptical of the political process and take longer to cultivate but that, once you have them, they are extremely loyal and use their word-of-mouth marketing prowess to support their candidate.

This is another reason that support for Clinton is consolidating. The Wall Street Journal points out that around 25% of Clinton's supporters said they would vote for Sen. John McCain rather than Obama, while 16% of Obama's supporters claim to prefer the presumptive Republican nominee to the former first lady. 

Women aren’t a niche audience this election cycle. How you reach them is as important as acknowledging their electoral heft.

soundoff (61 Responses)
  1. Nena

    I am a 49 year old woman. I have a Masters and teach at a university. I support Hillary Clinton. I like Hillary because of who she is and what she has done and what she tried to do for us.

    For those who care about the environment and like cars, think of Hillary as a Hybrid that gives you 80 MPG in the city. Great looking car, great a/c, etc plus it saves money and it saves the environment.

    Think of Obama as this new car that is still being developed, but it promises the best of the best. PrOMISES?

    80 MPG is awwesome and is a reality. I'll take it!

    April 24, 2008 at 1:58 am |
  2. Niliad

    Anderson..Please don't wonder why Obama has made more money..He is supported by the elite and the youth that Mommy and Daddy pay the bills.
    Hillary has the lower middle class, probably students that are working hard and studying and Seniors. The blue collar workers..But I can tell you that all these people that contribute to Hillary are making a sacrifice..The money does not come easy to them, therfore the sacrifice that they make is becasue they truly believe in Hllary.
    So when mommy and daddys pay teh bill yes more money is given and when mommy and daddy;s are of the elite, educated and upper class, yess more money is easy to give...
    Lets give credit to Hillary contributors..They believe and have Hope in Hillary!

    April 24, 2008 at 1:44 am |
  3. marie

    Women are for Hillary because she is the one candidate who can save this country. I have never been prouder to be a Pennsylvanian than I was on Tuesday, when we Democrats gave a wonderful victory to Hillary, our next President! My ancestors came to the colony of William Penn in the 1700's and Pennsylvania has been home to my family since. It is a great state and we are smart, for the most part, because we see a genuine person when we see her!!

    April 24, 2008 at 12:38 am |
  4. joe florida

    Some may know this but the argument Clinton wants to spin about Florida votes counting because both were on the ballot doesn't hold water. What the fact is is, the ballot had a property tax initiative to change the state constitution one of the most important votes in years. With the hurricanes driving the insurance rates sky high and taxes tripling in just four years people turned out in force to vote. The problem is, they were older people and property owners and they made a primary vote even though it didn't count just because they were already there. In other words, Hillary got votes just by default. Young people who don't own homes or property, didn't bother to even go to the polls. They are a big part of what would have been Obamas voting base. He might as well not even have been on the ballot. The result is a falsehood and an illusion if you know the facts. Of course, Hillary never let a small thing like facts stand in the way. A revote would have been fair though and let the chips fall where they will, but that is no longer a possibility so we are just stuck with thing like they are.

    April 23, 2008 at 11:56 pm |
  5. john

    What would solve all our problems is 4 more years with G W BUSH!!! You got to agree that our economy and the war of terror have been a complete success... "4 MORE YEARS""

    April 23, 2008 at 11:29 pm |
  6. Gail

    Isn't it obvious why the Obama people so desperately want Hillary out of the race? HE CAN'T WIN EITHER. Neither candidate is likely to garner enough delegates to win. If this were a local race, we'd have a run off until someone had the numbers to win with the required numbers. So, please let's be honest. We WILL have to broker the nomination. The only question is how it is brokered and by whom. So, let's not pretend the ONLY brokering that would be going on would be to have her as the nominee. He will need it as well. If fhe could win enough delegates without it, there wouldn't be an issue. The system we have may be flawed. But you can't cry fowl ONLY at the parts of it that don't support your particular candidate.

    April 23, 2008 at 11:23 pm |
  7. Scott

    What a sad day in Pennsylvania. Who are those people anyway. Hillary is the old guard. She wants to claim Bill years as her years of experience. If that is true, then she signed NAFTA into law. Then she was responsible for sending thousands of jobs over seas and south of the boarder. And why didn't husband Bill's recent deal with Columbia to send more American jobs to Columbia on the news. What is going on?

    April 23, 2008 at 11:11 pm |
  8. john

    think Clinton should stay in the race as long as she is winning! Which will allow McCain to sit back and enjoy all the independent votes in Nov.

    April 23, 2008 at 11:10 pm |
  9. barry

    pa mom... i am with you... a different perspective.... as a gay man from pa...hillary is our best hope at solving the nations problems..

    April 23, 2008 at 11:07 pm |
  10. Andy Wilson NY Voting Expat in Dom Rep

    Hillary is a Goldwater Republican and panders to the fears of white, middle-aged women who don't have a greater context to know they're being hood-winked. It is cynical, sad, negative, and patently racist. She's made herself an icon of the past, a la Pat Buchannon, that appeals to the latent fears of these folks – Buchannon's appeal was marginal, but Hillary brings the perfect storm of attributes as a foil against Obama's ethnicity and success, that breads scapegoatism and resentment. A sad commentary on the U.S. today...

    April 23, 2008 at 11:05 pm |
  11. Deb

    I agree with Mannie's point – we say that the race is about the person – and a person's character but as I am sitting here watching CNN now, all I here and see is look Obama won here in Philly because of the African-American vote, Hillary won here because of the Whites. We need to get on with the real debate. When are we Americans going to look the person and not judge the person by the color of their skin. I am a white woman and I support Obama. I considered Hillary, but she is just too negative. I have worked in a large city government agency to help prepare us for emergencies. I am totally tired of the notion of living in terror, I certainly don't need my political candidate trying to scare me into supporting her. I had enough of that kind of rhetoric as a kid growing up in the rural South. If Hillary is chosen, I would support her. But at this point she is not speaking to me as an educated person, she is playing on people's fears. If she has something constructive to propose then I think she should communicate that. I think Obama is highly qualified and he has communicated to me that he is the leader who has a vision to move us forward as a country.

    April 23, 2008 at 11:00 pm |
  12. Terrance James

    After veiwing the CNN coverage of the Pennsylvania primary, and looking at the map (John King) Sen. Clinton had a very impressive statewide victory. But what I also notice is how well Sen. Obama did in Philly. Why is the case not being made that no Dem. can win Pennslyvania without winning big in Philly. Or does Sen. Clinton think that the core of Sen. Obama support in Philly is going to support her in the national election.
    The controversies raised during last seven weeks deeply turned a blind eye, to the issues raised in previous primaries and caucuses by Sen. Obama. In fact I even heard Sen. Clinton began to use some of the phrasings of Sen. Obama ("We will bring a end to George Bush's war on Science"). Many of the issues as it relates to Education, and College loans, now raised by Sen. Clinton (factcheck it) was first raised by Sen. Obama. Yes! Sen. Obama gives a excellent speech, but what happens is that we become so impressed by his oratory talent that we don't hear the substance.
    In Pennslyvania I strongly believe that race (RACE) mattered more than gender. Sen. Clinton has How many hometowns and home states ??? Let's see born in Chicago, Illinois (Loss that Primary), Arkansas (First Lady) (Won Big that Primary), Pennslyvania (Won that Primary), New York (Won that Primary). Maybe this doesn't mean much to most people but how do you lose your birth state? To make more sense of this, had Vice President Al Gore won his Home State (Tenn) in 2000, he would have been President.

    April 23, 2008 at 10:59 pm |
  13. Larry

    Is there a statistically significant racial gap in this election?

    April 23, 2008 at 10:58 pm |
  14. Betty

    I donot understand how Hillary thinks she can change the rules in the middle of the game. She is incredible when she says she is concerned that votes in Michigan and Fla are counted. She can not with a straight face say she would make this argument if Obama was where she is now in delegates. If she really means it just split the votes in half in both states. What she wants is for the votes to be in her favor. Also, she makes the argument that Obama cannot win working class whites. Based on what she said, if Obama wins, she said she will work as hard as she can to help him win in November. Then she will help win over those voters. So what is the problem? Just like the governor help her win PA, she can help Obama win over working whites. Does this make sense to you. It makes a lot of sense to me.

    Why does she insist on more debates. Her name is out there and it has been for years. Obama needs to be on the road meeting people more than he needs to be sitting down for more debates. She knows that while he is debating, her husband will be out campaigning for her.

    Also, I am afraid that if Hilary wins the Lewinsky story will be revived again by the Republicans. We cannot afford that.

    April 23, 2008 at 10:56 pm |
  15. Steve

    Operation Chaos has prevailed.

    April 23, 2008 at 10:52 pm |
  16. Mari, Salt Lake City

    Can any of the Clinton supporters explain how they can support a candidate who like McCain voted for the Iraq war?

    And how can they possibly vote for McCain when Obama is the nominee?

    Answer: you are part of the "Rush the Vote" Republicans! Just admit it.

    April 23, 2008 at 10:52 pm |
  17. Dawn Pageau

    I am a – white, female, single, age 64, high school education –and most importantly a supporter of Hillary Clinton. I am tired of Howard Dean and others trying to call the nomination now rather than let it play out. It's up to the Democrats to lose this race in November, but I can tell you the following: #1 – I am voting for McCain if Obama gets the nomination (no question) and #2 – if the Democrats call a close to this process before the convention – I will henceforth be a Republican – end of story. Tell that to Howard Dean. And to Jermail Simmons who seems to think that anyone who voted for Hillary will turn around and vote for Obama if he secures the Democratic nomination. I am one who will not!!!!!

    April 23, 2008 at 10:49 pm |
  18. ken

    Republicans will switch back in November.

    Hillary Supporters don't fool yourself, you didn't win like you thought.

    Keep doing what are doing and come November, you will stare at JM, and go how, did he win, and you will only have to look in the mirror.

    April 23, 2008 at 10:49 pm |
  19. Arnie

    I am a liberal gwm, almost 50 y/o, and for the first time in my life I have seen the liberal establishment's bias against a women running for a public office. No matter what Senator Clinton does or says, no matter how many contest she wins, they refuse to admit it and give her credit for her hard work. After months of observing Mr Obama and his campaign, and his lack of skill to face the issues, I find it hard to believe that the liberal elite could think he can be elected to be our next President. I for one would stay home this fall if the rich, powerful, liberal elite elects Obama to be the Democratic nominee. I rather have 8 more years of Republican bs than allow race and the extreme leftist to over run out party.

    April 23, 2008 at 10:48 pm |
  20. seah

    Obama has the Black vote. They are obligated to vote for one of their kind as my friend put it. He said the community and peer pressure is astounding. When people should be voting on competency and ability instead.

    April 23, 2008 at 10:44 pm |
  21. Jeremy

    Loyalty to Hillary is an invitation to an inevitably bad relationship.

    Hillary has to consistently win all remaining pledged and superdelegates by a margin of 24 percentage points to win the candidacy. That means 62-38% across the boards. Her 9.2% advantage in PA exemplifies the fact that even in states full of her ideal constituents, she cannot pull it off.

    I hope that women do not wed themselves emotionally to a candidate who won't be around the morning after.

    April 23, 2008 at 10:42 pm |
  22. ken

    I am Active duty.. A Vet also..been to the middleast twice.. Hillary MCcain and John Clinton are one in the same...You don't run your opponent down to try and build yourself, up..Tell me what you stand for and let the chips fall where they may. BTW-Hillary is not broke and she has 109 million reasons not to be broke. shameless ploy like she is broke. Hillary supporters, answer me this...

    How can you fix our economy and your campaign has been bankrupt twice in this election. HRC this is not a hard question.

    April 23, 2008 at 10:40 pm |
  23. Louis Fouda

    I am a democrat and I am given credit to Hillary Clinton for her Pennsylvania's victory yesterday. But why whenever John King makes analysis on his magic board, he always makes sure to criticize Sen. Barack Obama for not winning White blue color vote. Why don't we also hear criticism about Sen. Hillary Clinton not winning the black vote. Is it not also an important constituant of the democratic party?

    Los Angeles

    April 23, 2008 at 10:39 pm |
  24. Twinkle

    Please help me understand how NO ONE has brought up the fact that Hillary Clinton, by her own account could have brought her daughter into a region full of "Sniper Fire" as she claimed. As a mother I cannot even begin to comprehend this; then to parlay this into a political positive asserting her "strength" as a commander-in-chief is beyond belief.

    April 23, 2008 at 10:27 pm |
  25. Manny Pereira

    What is all this talk about the white vote and the african american vote. This race is not about black and white, I cant even believe that CNN is portraying it in this fashion. This race is about our country, our jobs, our healthcare, our civil liberties, this race is about the people and the return of democracy in a time when government has consumed our very lives. I am a white voter, a veteran, a father, a husband and a worker and I can assure you that I make my own decisions based on who I think is not full of malarky, and that candidate is barack obama. If hillary wins, I can also tell you that my lifelong democratic vote will be for john mccain. just wait till washington feels the wrath of my vote in missouri. P.S. bye, bye Claire!

    April 23, 2008 at 10:23 pm |
  26. Dennis Thureson

    I'm a registered republican supporting Senator Clinton. We live in a constant state of change. Where we talking about the economy as much as we are today when the campaigns were just beginning. Have the Democrats learned anything since Dukakis and Kerry? I know many Republicans who would vote for Sen. Clinton but not Obama. I predict that Sen. Clinton will be the nominee and win the general election.

    April 23, 2008 at 10:22 pm |
  27. Manny Pereira

    What is all this talk about the white vote and the african american vote. This race is not about black and white, I cant even believe that CNN is portraying it in this fashion. This race is about our country, our jobs, our healthcare, our civil liberties, this race is about the people and the return of democracy in a time when government has consumed our very lives. I am a white voter, a veteran, a father, a husband and a worker and I can assure you that I make my own decisions based on who I think is not full of malarky, and that candidate is barack obama. If hillary wins, I can also tell you that my lifelong democratic vote will be for john mccain. just wait till washington feels the wrath of my vote in missouri. P.S. bye, bye Claire!

    April 23, 2008 at 10:21 pm |
  28. J A Marino

    Question around our "water Cooler" – how many Clinton votes in PA. were from Republicans who switched only to plan a switch back before November. These were comments from Republicans.

    Any data on this?

    April 23, 2008 at 10:21 pm |
  29. Helen Hahn

    Wasn't Hillory Clinton ahead of Barak Obama by 27% earlier in the month? Since she won by only 10% is it really a win? Also, how can she count Michigan and Florida when in Michigan she was the only one on the ballot as the other candidates were playing by the rules. Why does she think she is exempt?

    April 23, 2008 at 10:20 pm |
  30. Mark

    What about the 160,000 votes generated by Rush Limbaughs OPERATION CHAOS? Why isn't the mainstream media discussing this?

    April 23, 2008 at 10:19 pm |
  31. doreen campbell

    Hilary Clinton would win if you people would stop putting her down, all these polls,who believes them HELLO.
    She is the women for the job. Too many men have failed at it. of course we could let another failure go in like old man Mccain. Now lets think about that.
    She won last night , so give her credit stop stop stop taking the glory away from her.
    Obama doesnt deserve it yet, and believe me if he gets in ( and he won't) you all will be having a whole different conversation next year this time.

    April 23, 2008 at 10:19 pm |
  32. ken

    why isn't NC a must win state for hillary...why doesn't anyone highlight hillary has a problem winning African American votes. Her support has steadily declined in this race. Is that not just as important as the white vote? Or do blacks not matter...Be fair

    April 23, 2008 at 10:19 pm |
  33. Mary True

    I am so happy tonight that Hillary Clinton won this particular primary. She has had so much manufactured bad press. I am sick of it. The Press once again are going for the guy who aspires to the be the great savior of the Democratic Party. The less then intelligent President we have had over the past 8 years made the same claims that Barak Obama makes in this election. He's going to change the atmosphere, he will cross the line and unite with those who disagree with him, he is a uniter. Why for once in this Century can we not believe in Hillary Clinton who is clearly the more practical, more empathetic toward the middle class, more capable of achieving the goal of uniting and working with the Congress and Senate. I love Hillary, she is tough and a hard working person. Why does the press dis this attitude. A very proud Hillary Supporter

    April 23, 2008 at 10:18 pm |
  34. john

    i agree

    April 23, 2008 at 10:17 pm |
  35. Judith Carroll

    A few weeks ago all the talk from Journalists and TV pundits was that Hillary need to win by a big double digit number. They have forgotten that plus the fact that Obama was down more than 20 points.
    There is little comment that he halved that gap.
    Why does the media help any candidate to shift the goalposts ?

    April 23, 2008 at 10:16 pm |
  36. Vincent


    If Sen. Clinton loaned her campaign $5 million, who pays her back?

    April 23, 2008 at 10:15 pm |
  37. Ryan Wyssmann

    The following is why we should do a revote in Michigan and Florida. The fact that the democratic party leaders in Michigan and Florida could move the elections foward causing the votes not to be counted could be a strategy used by some one that supports a candidate that doesn't have a chance in those states. Think about it, is this what happened? Sounds like an Obama scheme to me.

    April 23, 2008 at 10:15 pm |
  38. Paul Porter

    I have yet to see a poll of African American reaction if the super delegates were to select Hillary Clinton if Barack Obama won the popular vote? It would be a HUGE lost for the democratic party in November! What do you think???



    April 23, 2008 at 10:14 pm |
  39. Omar Mohey


    I heard a comment/question in your show few minutes ago that Obama is not connecting with blue collar workers. I believe he can't as long as Clinton is on the way. He and She are basically having the same policies. Unfortunately it comes down to the race and personality.


    April 23, 2008 at 10:13 pm |
  40. Paula Shatsky

    Someone needs to tell Carl Bernstein that he is incorrectly linking John Mellencamp to the Obama campaign. Mellencamp, ( according to NPR) is performing for both Obama and Clinton as they campaign in Indiana.

    Paula Shatsky

    April 23, 2008 at 10:12 pm |
  41. barry

    Anderson, just look at the vote by county. i am a liberal gay man from pa that has lived in 5 states including Illinois, Flordia, Minnesota, New York and Maryland..I believe Hillary is the best candidate to solve our problems..after Hillary I think it is McCain. Obama can not win the democratic base-the blue collar working people and women. Not only did she win Pa she won FL, MI, TX, OH, NY and CA... Without those states...It wil be a Dukasis again...McCain will sweep into the white house...lets review TX, OH, and PA by county...

    April 23, 2008 at 10:11 pm |
  42. Liseette

    Why not be the first kid on the block to say Hillary lost a long time ago
    And stop pretending she has a chance, this just fuels her fire
    Announce Barack will be the nominee and lets end this madness
    Americans are fed up with this-we know hillary is crazy and won't let go but, all she is accomplishing is to trash Barack and the Democratic Party.
    Why let her lead you around by the nose–you the Media have the power to stop this.

    April 23, 2008 at 10:11 pm |
  43. Sad Democrat

    Hillary is a liar. She's so good at it, she doesn't blink or think twice, she just opens her big fat mouth and say what she thinks she wants you to hear. There is no substance there and nothing special about her to make this woman ever vote for her. I promise to stay home if she steals the election.... I don't have anything to lose, i'm already broke and living paycheck to paycheck.

    April 23, 2008 at 10:08 pm |
  44. Cowboy Jack

    ANDERSON.... Hillary Clinton won last night!! STOP TALKING ABOUT how people are calling her to drop out of the race!! This is an example of the pro-Obama media

    April 23, 2008 at 10:08 pm |
  45. Annie Kate

    I have always been leery of buying a pig in a poke and without the specifics on the issues which Obama has not given that is what he is. Tell me the specifics and I might be for Obama. Hilary can give you details and plenty of them – it makes her look a lot more capable and a better fit for the job of President. I just don't believe his high flown generic rhetoric.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    April 23, 2008 at 10:07 pm |
  46. Mari, Salt Lake City

    I am a grandmother and mother of four-college graduates. And a wife of 35 years.

    Interesting that the comment above by a grandmother mentions that women are "likely to spot a phony a mile away...." We are. However, the phony in my opinion is Hillary Clinton. In national polls, Hillary is less likely to be seen as trustworthy. And what about her blatant lie about Bosnia?! Please.

    Sen. Obama has been very specific about issues, however, if you don't like him or if you believe we must vote for a woman no matter what you wont see that he is far better than Hillary.

    My reason for not supporting Clinton is that SHE VOTED FOR THE WAR! So she is responsible for our mounting debt, of 10 TRILLION and counting; she is responsible for the thousands of soldiers dead, maimed and those who will never recover! That's why I will not support Hillary.

    Also, her negative-win-at-any-cost campaign is horrible!

    April 23, 2008 at 10:05 pm |
  47. kevin lynch

    Obama is a smirking fresh mouth oportunist. Richardson,kerry and kennedy can all go to hell.
    Obamas relations with his preacher/family like friend will not go away! We see this preacher as a racist PUKE! He is the equivalent of the KKK.
    We democrats will not elect OBAMA!! The influence that he has recieved through listening to this RACIST ,separtist, anti american rev wright has been eveident through many noticed remarks made by Barrack and his wife Michelle.
    Even if Barrack gets the nomination and Clinton endorses Barrack, we decent "typical white people" as Barrack states whom are decent, free thinking,hard working and full of common sense will never vote for OBAMA!
    I campaigned hard for his twin oportunist DEVAL patrick in massachusetts; we were fooolled,not again!!!!!!!

    April 23, 2008 at 9:54 pm |
  48. pa mom

    The media, the Obama campaign and the democratic party leaders are underestimating the respect and loyalty female voters who support Hillary feel towards her.

    I have watched her being trashed with negativity by the media on a daily basis and still have enough guts to keep on fighting with her eye on the prize.

    I have for the first time in my life donated (multiple) times to a candidate. I have cancelled my Oprah magazine, my local newspaper and very rarely watch CNN so I dont have to listen to the pundits and their ridiculous comments.

    I have written letters to Howard Dean, Bill Richardson and our local boy wonder Bob Casey stating my distaste at having their left wing liberal candidate jammed down my throat.

    I will never vote for Obama....neither will most of my friends or family.

    This election is a sad commentary on journalists and how they report the news.

    April 23, 2008 at 9:53 pm |
  49. Raymond

    Anderson, do you ever get tired of the same ole, same ole everynight on 360? All you have anymore is politices while a lot of other news is being made. I dont like FOX, but its got to be better than what you have to offer at 9:00 P.M. CT everynight. Come on give Hillary & Obama a break That panel you have on couldnt predict the weather let alone the canidates.

    April 23, 2008 at 9:52 pm |
  50. Grandmother in Oklahoma

    Women are more likely to spot a phony a mile away as well as knowing the issues and what is right for their families.

    Senator Obama has always danced around the issues without getting to the nitty-gritty part. Women have a hard time believing him.

    April 23, 2008 at 9:33 pm |
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