Throughout the election, polls have shown that women tend to prefer Barack Obama over his Republican rival John McCain, with Gallup's most recent numbers showing a 54 percent to 39 percent split. A new report shows that reasons for the split might extend beyond traditional gender-gap trends.
When 43 economists graded each candidate on 10 issues seen as particularly significant for women, including child care, domestic violence, and reproductive rights, Obama came out firmly in the lead. McCain lagged behind in every issue and was given an F—reserved for when the group thought that policies actually would do harm—on two of them.
The issue of reproductive rights was one area where the two candidates were diametrically opposed, in both position and grade, in the report by the Economists' Policy Group on Women's Issues.
For his statements in favor of Roe v. Wade, votes to increase access to family-planning services, and support for United Nations efforts to provide family planning, Obama did well, earning an A by the group's criteria. McCain failed, thanks to his votes against a federal program that provided health services like birth control and breast cancer screenings, support of "abstinence only" sex education, and support for repealing Roe v. Wade.
The issue of pay and employment equity also saw big differences between the candidates. "Senator McCain's past votes and present positions reveal no serious commitment to pay equity," says Nancy Folbre, the group's chair and a staff economist at the Center for Popular Economics. "We give him an F." Obama's score of a B on the issue wasn't perfect, but it was higher than any of the scores McCain had received.
As well as showing how the candidates fare on the issues, the group also hopes that the report might return some focus onto the topics important to women, who are the majority of the electorate.
"We're tired of hearing about the Joes—as in 'Six Pack' and 'Plumber'—and want more attention to the Joannes," Folbre says.