What Women Want

On CNN’s New Day this week, Donald Trump told Chris Cuomo, “Look, women want strength. They want security. They want to have strong military. They want to know that our country is being protected.” In making the case that Hillary Clinton could not provide that protection, Trump played into the masculine protectionism ubiquitous in the Republican campaign to date. In essence, he positioned himself as the protector that women want, despite evidence to the contrary.

But Trump was not the only one telling women what they want over the past week. Piers Morgan, writing for the Daily Mail, contested claims that Trump would fare poorly with women in the general election, explaining that he’s witnessed women “melting like fawning putty in Mr. Trump’s famously delicate hands” during his time on The Apprentice. He characterizes women at Trump rallies as struck with “fevered adoration,” not hate. And – as Emma Gray effectively rebukes in her Huffington Post column – Morgan commends Trump’s ability to “seduce” women.

As Gray argues, women voters don’t want to be seduced in casting their ballots. And while women voters may want to be protected, they also want to be respected. When confronted with Trump’s disrespectful comments toward women, women react more negatively than men. New research from Lynn Vavreck and John Geer finds that Trump’s unfavorable ratings among women increased by 19 points after viewing an ad detailing Trump’s misogynist comments, while men’s unfavorable ratings bumped up by only one point.

Vavreck and Geer go directly to women to determine how candidate comments affect them. But not all election coverage is research-based or gender-conscious. In the 48 hours after Trump accused Hillary Clinton of “playing the woman card” and claimed she’d get no more than five percent of the vote were she a man, at least three major cable news shows covered his comments with all-male panels. According to research conducted by #WhoTalks – a project from Gender Avenger and the Center for American Women and Politics — “Morning JoeThe Kelly File, and Fox & Friends all featured segments about the woman card… with 100% male analysts.”

In debating what women want, asking women seems a logical first step that some candidates and cable news outlets have forgotten. Seeing that women outnumber and outvote men, understanding the range of commonalities and complexities of what women want (reminder: women voters are not monolithic) matters for anyone looking to win in November.