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She Votes: Pandemic Politics At Work, At Home, And At the Ballot Box
New research among women looks at the implications of the 2020 election and the pandemic
The 2020 Election
The 2020 election saw Americans deliver the highest voter turnout in over a century, with women casting more votes than ever before. And for good reason: our new study shows that a majority of women believe the 2020 election was the most important of their lifetime so far. Women were highly engaged, but also dug in: nearly 2 in 3 had made up their minds on who to vote for as far as six months before the November 3rd deadline, leaving few truly persuadable voters in the mix as election day grew closer.
A majority of women said Vice President Harris was a factor in their vote, especially for Biden voters. VP Harris’s history making position in American politics is seen as exciting by 60% of women, including even one in four Republicans.
Pandemic Side Effects
Though the election of the first woman VP was a bright spot in the political landscape, this research shows an overwhelming number of women agree that the ongoing pandemic has exposed some of America’s major structural flaws – and they want something done about them. Huge majorities of women across the political spectrum say they now agree with changes that would once have been considered left of center– expanding American health care access, paying caregivers more, investing in aged care, and establishing paid sick and family leave. Notably, nearly three quarters of Republicans and Fox News viewers would support these moves.
On a personal level, the pandemic is taking a staggering mental toll on women, especially young women. Fully 60% of women told us the Covid-19 situation has affected their mental health and half say they’ve felt more lonely than normal over the past year. Relationships with close family and friends have deteriorated for at least a third of women.
Economically, over one in three women say their financial situation has gotten worse since the beginning of the pandemic, and a quarter of working women indicate that it has affected their careers by delaying raises, bonuses and promotions – with mothers and women under age 40 feeling this more acutely.
Work and School
As the debate over whether to re-open schools for in-person learning rages on, our study shows that 64% of women with children would not automatically send their kids to in-person learning if schools were to open tomorrow. They want school to be normal again, but they aren’t prepared to take risks with their kids’ health and need assurance that things will be safe. Though two in three moms with school-age kids can’t wait for them to be back in real school, 65% of parents think re-opening schools without knowing all the risks would be the wrong move. Plus, despite acknowledging that taking care of kids during this time is stressful, many moms love that they’re able to spend more time with them.
Heading back to the workplace is not something that women working from home are super eager to do. Three quarters believe that we need to rethink the 9-5 model to allow more flexibility, and though some have found working from home more stressful, most say their level of stress around work has been the same or less than usual. But not all women have this luxury, and a quarter feel their employer has put them at risk of catching Covid – a number that is higher among low-income women, women of color, and young women. Many women of color (57%) and low-income women (42%) in particular feel their employers have cared more about profits than their employees.
Looking ahead to the 2022 midterms, it’s clear that the pandemic and its effects on American women will shape the political environment. Women voters have become the crucial persuadable group in recent elections, playing a decisive role in both 2018 and 2020 at every level of politics. As elected officials gear up for the contest ahead, they would do well to take note of the economic and social stressors women have cited here, along with the expectations among women voters that our leaders take real steps to remedy them.
See more on these findings here.