A Woman’s Perspective on 2016 Elections

Photos are here
Video is here

Thursday, December 1
Women’s City Club

Dr. Caroline Heldman, Occidental College

Were you surprised by the presidential election result? Based on Dr. Heldman’s analysis of election trends, the outcome of the presidential election shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Despite pre-election polls, powerful elements of sexism and racism not picked up in polling were at play. While the election has been portrayed as a working class revolt, the typical Trump voter was not low-income. Race and ethnic factors seem to have been more important: a majority of white men and women voted for Donald Trump, while overwhelming majorities of black, Latino, and other ethnic groups voted for Hillary Clinton. The key element that changed in the 2016 election was that white men abandoned the Democratic candidate.

Representation of women in state and national elected office has had a long, gradual upward trend but with many setbacks, including the recent past. Women are strikingly underrepresented in governorships and in legislative bodies. The reasons for this, Dr. Heldman noted, include “ambition bias,” which results in women not aspiring to elected office, and “leadership evaluation bias,” leading to negative assessments of women candidates as being shrill, emotional, or weak. This affects most candidates, whether Republican or Democrat, with consistent negative views of all of the nine women who have run for president over the years, from Victoria Woodhill in 1872 to Margaret Chase Smith, Shirley Chisolm, Elizabeth Dole, Michelle Bachman, and Hillary Clinton. All have been vilified in one way or another. There is a persistent pattern of women being singled out with negative comments on their appearance, wardrobe, hair style, emotional state, and leadership style.

However, you needn’t rely on this report of Dr. Heldman’s presentation—you can see the video on our website! It’s available on the left side of the League web page at LWV-PA.org. On the left side of the page, under Videos, click View All Videos and select the 2016 Election at left. The video includes Dr. Heldman’s PowerPoint slides. Many thanks to Pasadena Media for providing this coverage.

In addition, the League is sponsoring a Women’s History Month program featuring Dr. Heldman in March, with details to be announced in the next Voter. You won’t want to miss it!

—Marge Nichols