Women’s Vote May Reflect Worries About Economy

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LOS ANGELES, August 16–New technology saves time, right? Not so, say women in a recent series of focus groups. The cell phones, email and web search engines have only increased their bosses’ demands for instantaneous results.

And somehow, the time saved is not their own, leaving them more stressed than ever in trying to meet the demands of the workplace while caring for their children and other family members.

Nor is the wealth created. Women, too often clustered in low wage jobs from teaching to chicken-processing (or hitting their heads on the glass ceiling while having their shoes glued to the cement floor), remain worried about their financial security.

These are the key results announced here today of the Lifetime Television and the Center for Policy Alternatives election year polling project called “Listening to Women’s Voices2000: Issues Driving American Women to the Polls.”

The poll results appear to coincide with what many of the women leaders here are saying about women voters. At one celebration for women of color in Congress, for example, the remarks of Irene Natividad,, national chair of Women’s Vote 2000, a non-partisan voter outreach effort based in Washington, D.C., were greeted with howls of laughter and applause.

“For way too long women have suffered whisker burns from the lip service that men have paid to the sharing of power,” Natividad said.

Rep. Patsy Mink of Hawaii added a more serious note: “Women have an innate sense of values in our country. We don’t need a banner that says ‘Family Values.’ We know what family values are.”

And Rep. Barbara Lee of California seemed to have had a peek at the poll results when she said: “Women of color get it. They are the Burger King moms who have not benefited from the new economy. They are the women who can’t afford child care and can’t get job training.”

Complete results of polling and focus group research will be announced in September.

The final report is expected to reflect authoritatively women’s views on such issues as the workforce and the economy, health care, education, family economic security, diversity and crime. The intent is to encourage presidential and congressional candidates to incorporate women’s concerns into their campaigns and beyond.

Women’s Voices is the first polling project of women by women that has consistently tracked women’s values and priorities since 1992.

Democratic pollster Celinda Lake conducted the focus groups and told an audience here that the women told her they felt they were still struggling. They are finding that time is in shorter supply than money, she said.

Adequate, convenient and flexible childcare would help, the members of the focus group said. After all, their jobs often do not fit into the rigid time schedule of most traditional childcare centers and they believed the government should help in the development of this type of care, Lake added.

They also expressed need for similarly flexible arrangements for aging parents. They do not consider caring for their parents a burden, Lake said, but a responsibility. However, they would like government assistance with prescription drugs and medical services that would make taking care of elderly parents at home, rather than in nursing homes, more feasible.

Entrepreneurial women also expressed concern about the lack of available health care, not only for themselves but also for the employees of their small businesses.

The members of the group who had health care were also concerned about the limited amount of time they have with their physicians, as a result of their health maintenance organizations’ standards, and the limited number of choices in their treatment plans, again a result of HMO standards.

The most surprising outcome, Lake said, was that many of the women also said they desired a better educational system, not only for their children but also for themselves.

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