Despite recent polls and media reports suggesting that the gender gap among voters has all but disappeared, numerous experts on voting and women’s issues declared this week that women will once again be the deciding factor in the upcoming elections.

“In the United States, women count–or, to be more precise, women count more,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, in a statement released Wednesday. She added that about 8 million more women than men will vote on Nov. 2. Women have been a greater presence at the polls in every presidential election since 1980, according to U.S. Census data.

The gender gap–the measurable difference between how women and men vote and view major issues–has been a huge focus of media attention since 1980, when it first emerged in voter polls. In 1992, the gap reached a low of 4 percentage points, while in 1996 it jumped to 11 points, with women leaning towards the Democratic candidate both times, according to Susan Carroll, a senior scholar at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey’s Center for American Women and Politics.

This year some journalists and pollsters predict that the Bush-Kerry race will not divide the sexes as past races have. But a Zogby International Poll from Sept. 13-Sept. 17, showed a significant gender gap in key battleground states, where experts say the ultimate outcome of the election will be decided. The gender gap ranged from 10 to 20 points in states such as Minnesota, Oregon and New Mexico. Another poll, from Quinnipiac University on Sept. 16, showed Kerry with a 10-point lead over Bush among likely female voters.

In addition, the America’s Research Group in Charleston, S.C., found that women continue to be the majority of undecided voters, representing as much as 72 percent of the undecided vote in Pennsylvania and 68 percent in Florida.

Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics, said on Wednesday that it was vital for presidential candidates to start tapping into women’s electoral power by speaking to the issues that most concern them: the economy, jobs and healthcare.


The U.S. Department of State has awarded a major grant to the Independent Women’s Forum to promote women’s political and economic participation in Iraq. Yet the organization, whose board emerita includes Lynne Cheney, the spouse of the vice president, is devoted to countering “the dangerous influence of radical feminism in the courts” and combating “corrosive feminist ideology” on college campuses, among other things, according to its Web site.

The grant is part of the State Department’s $10 million Iraqi Women’s Democracy Initiative, and the department will award money to 10 recipients, six of whom have already been selected, according to Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky. The recipients so far include The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of The Johns Hopkins University and the Kurdish Human Rights Watch.

As Iraq’s January 2005 elections approach, the recipients will train thousands of Iraqi women “in political leadership, advocacy, entrepreneurship and organizational skills,” according to the State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs.

The Independent Women’s Forum’s Mission Statement declares the organization “was established to combat the women-as-victim, pro-big-government ideology of radical feminism.”

In addition to Lynne Cheney, its board of directors emeritae includes neoconservative author and columnist Midge Decter, who wrote a book in 1972 called “The New Chastity and Other Arguments Against Women’s Liberation.” In a collection of her writing published under the title, “Always Right,” she accuses feminism of radicalizing and marginalizing women who choose the roles of mother and homemaker.

Another member, Wendy Lee Gramm, was a board member of Enron before its infamous collapse in 2001, and served on its audit and compliance committee where she helped approve financial statements and acted as a liaison to auditors Arthur Andersen, according to The Washington Post. She is the wife of former Texas Senator Phil Gramm, and was named “Villain of the Month” in January of 2002 by the nonprofit Clean Air Trust for her work with a think-tank at George Mason University that opposes many existing federal environmental regulations.

In a press release on Tuesday, the chair of the forum’s board of directors, Heather Higgins, said the organization was looking forward to making lives better in Iraq “by putting into action the ideas we espouse, using both our heads and our hearts.”

— Robin Hindery.

Independent Women’s Forum–
IWF Awarded Grant to Support Iraqi Women:http://www.iwf.org/media/media_detail.asp?ArticleID=677