On November 6, most Americans focused their attention on the presidential election results. However, many state and congressional races also will influence the next four years. The Gender Report has previously looked at the influence of women in politics, notably the lack of women in elected office.This year, those numbers are starting to improve.
The 2012 election brought a record-number of women to office; 1 in 5 senators are now female (a gain of 3 seats), and the first Asian American, as well as openly gay, women were elected to represent Hawaii and Wisconsin, respectively. A Washington Post multimedia project highlighted the female senators and their projected significance in governance. In addition, New Hampshire became the first state to elect an all-female delegation, including the only female democratic governor. In the House of Representatives, 77 seats will be held by women (a gain of four representatives).
Despite their gains for their own seats and victories, much of the media coverage of the election instead focused on the influence of female voters on the top of the ticket. According to research from the Huffington Post, for the first time in research dating to 1952, a presidential candidate whom men chose decisively – Republican Mitt Romney – lost. While Obama’s victory was attributed partly to high minority turnout and support, he won the female vote 54 to 45 nationally and also in every swing state(compared to his 56 to 43 showing in 2008). In one Washington Post article, female supporters of Gov. Mitt Romney said they couldn’t trust him to be true to his campaign promises, an issue women voters consider more signficant than their male counterparts. Gallup polling has tracked the gender gap since 1952, and said this year’s gender divide was 20 percentage points, the largest ever using its method of calculation.
The Huffington Post called 2013 the “New Year of the Woman.” For the time being, the most attention will be on Sen. Elizabeth Warren and the role she will play in the upcoming deficit deliberations in Congress.
Also of note was the loss of two male candidates who made incendiary comments about rape and women’s health in the weeks leading up to the election. Rep. Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, both republicans, made headlines for their separate comments about “legitimate rape” and abortions being god-sent, and were both defeated. Some analysts attribute the nationalized attention to their comments to the already debated “war on women” of the republican party.