By LUCIA OSBORNE-CROWLEY
That so many young, female voters appear to be supporting Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton reflects the fact that women are being drawn to policy as much as gender in this US presidential race, writes Lucia Osborne-Crowley.
In recent weeks the world has been fixated on the tightening race for the Democratic presidential nomination between former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders.
As the all-important New Hampshire primary results roll in and Sanders claims victory, election deliberations have gravitated towards the question of why he – and not Clinton – is performing so well among young, progressive female voters.
This issue was thrust into the limelight last week when Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinem publicly scolded women who supported Sanders over Clinton.
“We can tell our story of how we climbed the ladder, and a lot of you younger women think it’s done. It’s not done … There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other,” Albright, the US’s first female secretary of state said in a rally in New Hampshire on Saturday.
Earlier, Steinem, a prominent feminist, suggested younger women were drawn to the Sanders camp because they were searching for men.
“When you’re young, you’re thinking: ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie’,” she said.
But is Sanders really winning over more millennial women than Clinton?
In New Hampshire, polls suggest he is. And in last week’s Iowa caucuses, women under 29 chose Sanders over Clinton at an alarming rate of six to one. Nationally, a poll reported by USA Today in January found women under 35 favoured Sanders over Clinton by a margin of almost 20 points.
Young women who support Sanders are expressing the sentiment that they do not feel obliged to vote for Clinton based on her gender alone; that they do more than “vote with their vaginas”. Millennial women identify with a feminism that encourages them to demand more than just womanhood from a female candidate; one that believes that in order to win their vote on women’s issues they must decisively protect and empower women through substantive policy outcomes.
While Clinton has consistently emphasised gender issues in her campaign – something she failed to do in 2008, losing her a large chunk of young female voters to Barack Obama in early primary states – Sanders’ policies on relevant issues are arguably more ambitious.
Clinton promises pay transparency and the Paycheck Fairness Act to fight the gender pay gap; paid family leave; a strong investment in childcare; a federal minimum wage; enhanced social security; and the protection of Planned Parenthood and the Affordable Care Act.