Articles and Analysis


Women Non-Working For Hillary

Topics: General , Hillary Clinton

[Margie Omero is President of Momentum Analysis, a Democratic polling firm based in Washington, DC.]

The big news this week is that women, who voted for Obama in Iowa, put Hillary Clinton over the edge in New Hampshire. But rather than treat women as a monolithic group, it's worth examining the exit polls closely to look at the role of work status, parental status, and marital status in the New Hampshire vote. Despite the increasing focus on women's marital status, in addition to the usual focus on parental status (such as the "security moms" and "soccer moms" of yore), it is actually women not working full-time who are most likely to vote for Clinton.

Exit polls from the Democratic primary helpfully include breakouts by marital status by gender, by parental status by gender, as well as breakouts among married women with children, and women who work full-time. I extrapolated the rest (identified with an asterisk), and include it all in the table below.

(Note: The exit polls defines "parents" as the presence of children under 18 in one's home, and unmarried is not broken out further. And probably because of different versions of the exit poll questionnaire, Obama receives 32% of the vote from both married and unmarried women, but receives 34% from women overall.)


A few patterns emerge:

  • There is no real difference in Obama's edge between men with kids at home and men without kids at home.
  • But among men, there is a sizable difference by marital status. Obama has a much larger lead with unmarried men than with married men.**
  • Among women, kids at home makes more of a difference than marital status. Those without kids at home are more likely to support Clinton than those with kids at home, across marital status groups. Unmarried women without kids at home are most likely to support Clinton, while married women with kids at home are least so.
  • All groups of women we can examine with the exit polls give Clinton an edge.

But the most salient difference by gender is among women not working full-time. Clinton receives a strong 25-point lead with this group, compared to her 3-point lead among those who do work full-time. And while this could be partly due to older retired women being in the non-working group, it's likely socioeconomic status plays a large role, too.

In fact, aside from voters without a high school diploma, no other demographic group gave Clinton such a large margin. (I'm not counting "favorable toward Clinton" or prioritizing "right experience" as demographic groups.) Clinton also had a stronger lead with voters earning under $50,000 a year, with those who feel the country's economy is poor, and with those who say the economy is the most important issue. The table below shows her standing with voters at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum.


Because without a dataset-or even crosstabs-we can't discern causation from the exit polls, it's worth considering the different options. Much has been made about the role of gender in the New Hampshire primary. Everything from the "diner sob" to aggrieved women fed up with sexism to Gloria Steinem's NYT op-ed piece has been credited. But perhaps causality went the other direction. Maybe a long-standing Clinton infrastructure in New Hampshire grounded her base with lower socioeconomic folks, who happen to be more likely to be women. She has done well with this group for some time, and did best (+17 over Obama) with voters who decided earlier than a month ago.

Why is it because women gave Clinton the edge, we assume it's because they had an emotional reaction to Clinton (and her gender) personally? Clinton did better with those who said the "candidate's position on issues" was most important (39% Clinton, 34% Obama) than with those who said the "candidate's leadership/personal qualities" were most important (37% Clinton, 45% Obama). It might be that Clinton's female support may have been actually considering issues like the economy, rather than listening to their emotions.

** typo corrected.



There are just four critical flaws with this analysis:

(1) Lower socioeconomic brackets favored Clinton, but not by a 25 point margin. So clearly there's something else to this effect.

(2) Who says non-working women are poor? We're talking about household income - what about aging boomer stay-at-home moms, for example?

(3) The gender effect holds true wherever it's measured, albeit by varying margins. Why is the "economic interest" of mothers different than that of fathers? Of single women from that of single men?

(4) Perhaps most importantly, why didn't working women back Hillary?

I'd submit that much of the effect is largely a function of retirees - a group that is both predominantly female (58%, in 2000) and relatively poor. Most retirees in NH are on fixed incomes of $50k/annum or less (The median, for householders age 65 or over, was $32k in 2000). Hillary defeated Obama among voters over 65 by a 16-point margin.

The reason that people have been searching for a rationale other than economic self-interest, Maggie, is quite simply that economic factors don't explain the gendered divide - and that the gendered divide was much larger in the actual vote than the pre-election polls had predicted. That suggests that there was a sudden shift, that it happened among women, and that men of similar socioeconomic status weren't affected. If you have an explanation, I'm all ears.


RonK, Seattle:

How much was an age-related artifact? Seniors are more likely to be female, and single, and not raising children, and not working. They're also more likely to vote, and to vote for Clinton.



There doesn't seem to be anything in this analysis to contradict what folks like Kohut suggested today in the NYT. Older white women appear to have misled pre-primary pollsters and exit interviewers about the extent of their support of Clinton and their possible reluctance to support a black (or African-American) candidate.


ben g:

The simplest explanation for this result is that women with kids at home are talking to their kids more than women without them at home, and the kids overwhelmingly favor Obama over Hillary (as proven by their divergence of supporters by age).



Thanks, Margie. That was fascinating.



I think HRC's comment criticizing BO on his abortion stance when voting do the work.
Obama should notice this problem and also brace older people when HRC come to yourgers.



There are other ways to look at this besides racism. With all the excitement about Obama and constant press nastiness about Clinton, maybe people were reluctant admit they support her! As to the breakout analysis, age probably overrides the married/working/kids categories. The press blew up the "tears" business - maybe women got indignant about this last bit of sexism rather than influenced by Clinton becoming "more human". And last, maybe there were just sampling errors - Clinton led in earlier polls. Perhaps Iowa was the anomaly - and dem women there may weigh in differently on the issues: prefer Obama's softer-spoken approach on women's rights to Clinton's directness, or care more about Iraq than the economy.


Mr DC:

Or might the issue have been health care - undoubtably of some interest to older women with fixed incomes? Though I see that, overall, those concerned about health care costs only supported Clinton by three points and those who didn't have insurance actually supported Obama by a larger margin! I find that interesting considering the difference in their plans on insurance coverage.



It seems like all the women group that voted overwhelmingly for HRC are Oprah's viewer base. May be Sen Clinton should get Oprah more often on the campaign trail for Sen Obama.


Daniel T:

Why do men think that the only thing women care about is Hillary's gender? Because women themselves say that is the only thing they care about. Here is a news article. What is important is what it does not say. Never once does the woman quoted in the article mention Hillary's expereince or qualifications, other than her gender. The notion that Hillay's agenda is anything other than a feminazi rant is belied by the palin and simple words of those that support her. Hillary's a woman; nothing else matters.

Denish looking at possible endorsement of Clinton

SANTA FE (AP) - Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish says she's leaning toward an endorsement of Hillary Rodham Clinton in the presidential race.

She says that in her lifetime, she'd like to see a woman be president. She says that would be an enormous change for the country.

Denish made the comments Thursday after Governor Richardson dropped out of the presidential race.

Denish is the first female lieutenant governor in New Mexico history.

She was Richardson's running mate in 2002 and when they won re-election in 2006.

Denish plans to make a formal endorsement within a few days. She wants to first talk with Clinton.


Cream City:

Daniel T -- do keep in mind that's what the reporter and/or editor wanted to hear. Take it from one who was a journalist -- and who has since been interviewed often, and often to my chagrin.

We can't be at all sure, from this article, that Denish didn't say a lot more that just didn't fit the preconceived angle of the story -- the tired, old "What Do Women Want" story. (Uhhh, since at least 1848 at Seneca Falls in Senator Clinton's state, women even have convened to issue quite detailed lists of what they want. . . .)


Cream City:

p.s. Problem with headline here: Not "nonworking" women, necessarily. "Nonworking fulltime" women, per the story. And really "nonpaid working" women, if they're homemakers.

p.p.s. Context for the 57-43 gender split of NH voters? I thought I had read that's about the same as the gender split of Dem voters in recent elections. I.e., women vote more than do men, at about 54% of the vote being by women in 2004 overall, and even higher on the Dem side, as I recall.


Annette's "constant press nastiness about Clinton."

That is simply jaw-dropping, and evidence of the extreme oversensitivity that Clinton supporters have been evidencing since 1991. Most candidates receive simple reporting: "Sally spoke here; Jose shook hands there." Every candidate receives some criticism, usually phrased as a sly "but others wondered whether the governor..."

If you think HRC's treatment has been nasty, I strongly recommend you not become attached to any conservative causes. You're not up to it.


Old Democrat:

Well, but one poll got it right, the one taken (by CNN?) on Monday or Tuesday, which showed Hillary's support steadily increasing all day.

So what happened that day or the night before? Lots of media coverage of a sexist nature. Iron my shirt. Steinem's NYT piece. Suddenly here's a woman getting the same catch-22 glass ceiling we're hitting -- but if she cracks it, she can turn around and smash it for us.

At least some of us saw a chance to tell the media (and our own bosses and husbands) -- Iron this!

I don't live in NH, but I got mad enough to make my first donation to Hillary. Maybe some others got mad enough to go out to vote.


Old Democrat, you got mad at a radio stunt. That's what the "iron this" banner was. Nice going. Way to keep your head in a crisis and give evidence for the gender stereotype.



I guess married men have less "hope" than unmarried men. Ha ha.


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