Gender on the Debate Stage: January Numbers

Betsy Fischer Martin | Jan 15, 2020


For a full recap of the January Des Moines, Iowa debate numbers, head here.

With less than a month until the Iowa Caucuses, last night’s debate had a high stakes feel looming over it.  The field of candidates continues to narrow resulting in just six contenders on stage, including the two remaining female candidates, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar.

And while foreign policy and Iran loomed large, this debate marked the first time this cycle that the word Gender made the headline of the main debate story in major papers:

And when you look at a word cloud of topics from the debate transcript, the word “women” is up there with health care, climate, trade, war, and President Trump.

Taking “head-on” this question about whether or not a woman can be President, Elizabeth Warren tried to openly address an issue that went from percolating to boiling once CNN broke the news of the Sanders-Warren conversation on the topic.

She also engaged her fellow female opponent Amy Klobuchar while making the case that a woman most certainly can win the presidency.

“Look at the men on this stage. Collectively, they have lost ten elections. The only people on this stage who have won every single election that they’ve been in are the women.”

And while November’s debate in Atlanta (with an all-female moderator panel) saw a variety of questions related to issues central to the lives of women and families  – like child care and paid family leave, reproductive rights, sexual violence, and harassment against women – last night we did see the longest discussion to date around the issue of affordable child care when the four leading candidates were asked how they would prioritize accessing quality affordable childcare.

All told, there were a total of 97 questions and rebuttal prompts that were directed at the six candidates on the stage over the course of roughly two and a half hours. 31 (32%) of the questions posed went to the two women on the stage.

Of the 31 questions and prompts that went to women candidates:

* the most speaking time of any candidate

Overall the main topics covered were:

The next debate will be held on February 7th in Manchester, New Hampshire.  It will be co-hosted by ABC News and WMUR-TV and Apple News. It will be the first in a trio of debates scheduled for the busy month of February. Post New Hampshire, the candidates will debate in Las Vegas, NV on February 19th and then in Charleston, SC on February 25th.   

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