She Votes: Women, the Workplace, and Pandemic Politics

Read the memo here, the blog post here, and the press release here.
Watch the virtual discussion of She Votes, and read more in The 19th.

The Covid-19 pandemic has upended women’s lives, highlighted inequities in health care, education and the economy, and underscored the importance of having women in political office.

Key Takeaways:

For women, the 2020 election was singularly consequential.

  • Over half of the women surveyed said it was the most important election of their lifetime, and a further 36% said it was more important than most elections.
  • The presence of Kamala Harris on a major party ticket was meaningful for the majority of women overall, though her impact differed according to political disposition. Over 60% of women expressed excitement about having a female vice president for the first time, including close to one in three Republican women.
  • Harris’s presence on the ticket was highly motivating for Biden voters (68% said she was a factor in their vote), while just 39% of Trump voters said she was a factor in their choice.
  • A majority of women voters (55%) still believe there are too few women in elected office. There is a stark difference of opinion based on party identity, with 58% of Republican women voters believing that the current number of women in political office is “about right” compared to only 23% of Democratic women.

The pandemic is taking a mental and economic toll on women.

  • Over one in three women say their financial situation has gotten worse since Covid-19 emerged.
  • A quarter of working women indicate that the pandemic has affected their careers—delaying raises, bonuses, and promotions, with mothers feeling this more acutely.
  • 60% of women, and a staggering 71% of women under the age of 40, say that the situation with the pandemic has affected their mental health.

The pandemic’s impact has led women across the political spectrum to reflect on systemic problems and support related policy shifts.

  • Covid-19’s disproportionate effect on low-income workers, older Americans, and people of color is concerning to most women, and especially to suburban women.
  • Nearly all women believe in the need for more affordable and accessible healthcare, including three quarters of Republican women. This view extends to expanding Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, which 77% of women now say they agree with, including 70% of Fox News viewers.
  • Eight in 10 women support better paid sick and maternity leave policies.

Women are challenging models of work and employment norms.

  • 78% of women indicate that workplaces should allow more flexibility than the “outdated” 9-5 model.
  • Among women currently working from home, three quarters say that when the pandemic is over, they would prefer to either work from home permanently or have a more flexible arrangement where they could work from home more often. Only 25% say they want to resume fulltime work outside home.
  • In terms of workplace safety during the pandemic, 57% of women of color and 42% of low-income women feel that their employer has prioritized profits over their wellbeing, and one in four women believe their employer put them at risk of contracting Covid-19.

Covid-19 has been difficult for mothers, and pulled them in competing emotional directions.

  • Over half of moms surveyed feel that taking care of their kids during this time has been isolating and stressful.
  • One in two working moms report difficulty juggling work and virtual schooling.
  • 86% of moms say they have loved having more time with their children.
  • Two in three moms with school-age children are eager for them to return to in-person school, but the majority are wary of re-opening schools without fully accounting for the risks and won’t send them back till things feel safe.

Benenson Strategy Group conducted this survey, which aimed to explore the issues shaping women voters and their political opinions one year after the start of the pandemic. The survey was conducted nationwide among 809 women who voted in the 2020 presidential election and who are likely to vote in the 2022 midterm election. The margin of error is ±3.5% at the 95% confidence level and is higher among subgroups.


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