Hillary and her female issues

hillary closerThe big political news in the Democratic Party is that Hillary continues to hang on to the loyalty of a majority of the party's voters. However, there are old dark clouds on the horizon when it comes to the public at large. The best-known candidate in the world continues to have very high negative ratings. That led to this interesting -- in my opinion, haunted -- story in The New York Times, with the headline "Women Supportive but Skeptical of Clinton, Poll Says."

As a rule, I am not a fan of poll stories. Here is the top of this one:

Women view Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton more favorably than men do, but she still faces skepticism among some women, especially those who are older and those who are married, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Women hold more positive views than men of all the leading Democratic candidates. But winning the support of women, who made up 54 percent of voters in the last presidential election, is especially important to Mrs. Clinton, who has sought to rally them behind her quest to become the nation's first female president.

The poll found that over all, women tend to agree with her on the issues and see her as a strong leader and as a positive role model.

... But the poll also held some warning signs for Mrs. Clinton, 59, the junior senator from New York.

Forty percent of voters view her unfavorably, more than for any of the other major candidates for president (although they are not as well known). Neither men nor women fully trust that she is saying what she really believes, the poll found.

Mrs. Clinton's choices as a woman and a political figure have been intensely scrutinized during her 15 years on the national stage, and as she runs for president, the debate about her remains polarizing, politically and culturally.

The key here is to try to define the lines of division among American female voters. That's where the story is -- figuring out the precise nature of these fault lines.

Later in the story we get some hints.

Among all registered voters, 46 percent of women have a favorable view of Mrs. Clinton, while 33 percent have an unfavorable view. The rest are undecided.

... The support for Mrs. Clinton is most pronounced among unmarried and less affluent Democratic women. More than 8 in 10 working women say she understands their problems.

The older the woman, the more negatively she views Mrs. Clinton: 27 percent of those under age 45 view her negatively; 33 percent of those 45 to 64 view her negatively; and 40 percent of those 64 and older view her negatively.

No real surprises here, either.

However, there are two other factors that the story does not seem to consider -- although, let me stress, this is probably a weakness in the language of the source poll.

First of all, anyone who studies American religion realizes that there are far more women in the mainline and even evangelical pews than there are men. At the same time, the big story of the past two or three elections was the "pew gap" factor, which established that the more people went to church (especially among white voters), the more they tended to vote for the GOP.

Thus, it would have been interesting to know the role that religion plays among Clinton's divided female voters. I predict that religion is a strong motivator on both sides of the division -- with many of her strongest supporters in the party's elites being women who are either fiercely anti-religious or very passionately active in the religious left and oldline Protestant world.

And what about abortion rights?

Once again, this forces us to consider numbers that are always skewed by the wordings in specific polls. But the Right to Life movement is, as a rule, led by women and the divisions among American women on this issue are very similar -- no surprise -- to the divisions on Ms. Clinton. Yet the story is silent on this issue.

There is no way to deal with the friends or the enemies of Hillary Clinton without facing these two issues. And the Democratic Party is not as united on abortion as many think, other than at the elite levels.

Stay tuned.

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