An interesting analysis of voting data this week by the Associated Press puts a new spin on the question: Will female voters support female candidates? The answer is yes and no.
Sen. Hillary Clinton, a New York Democrat, is the first woman in U.S. history with the visibility and resources to make a credible run (as front-runner yet) for a major party presidential nomination. But the AP analysis shows that womenwho are the majority of voters and an even higher majority of Democratic primary voters-may or may not give the senator a gender-based advantage. The AP analysis of voting data from the November 2006 races shows that women are both more likely to vote for a woman and more likely to dismiss a candidate based on gender. If that's confusing, it's because gender matters more to female voters than to male voters. Gender also can work against women since women generally place higher standards on female candidates.
Clinton's support among women is slipping. An April Gallup poll shows her favorability among women slipping to 54 percent, down from 61 percent last winter. Democratic strategist Jenny Backus told me that Clinton's support among likely female voters remains strong among middle- and upper-class, suburban, white, married women (the background from which she herself hails). But she's losing support from single women and women of coloran increasingly important and influential voting bloc.