One hundred twenty-five years after the first woman ran for president of the United States, the nation is closer than it has ever been to having a female president. But despite the increasing female presence in national politics, too many single women still do not vote, Page Gardner told a Slifka Center crowd Wednesday night.
Unmarried women who choose not to vote have a significant impact on the outcome of presidential elections, Gardner said to an audience of 50. And as the president and founder of Women’s Voices. Women Vote., Gardner and her organization are dedicated to changing the profile of America’s voters.
Gardner, who studies the voting patterns of unmarried female voters, said the focus of her work is not simply promoting female candidates who are on the campaign trail. Rather, she said she hopes to empower female voters as a whole.
“There are 50 million unmarried women in the U.S., which is the fastest growing population group,” Gardner said. “It comprises one quarter of all the eligible voters.”
But 20 million of them did not vote in the 2004 presidential election, and out of these 20 million, 15 million were not even registered to vote, Gardner said. In a country where about half of all households are headed by an unmarried person, single women can be a powerful force in determining the course of American politics, Gardner said.
Unmarried women tend to vote for Democratic candidates, Gardner said, although she herself did not explicitly support one political party or candidate during her speech.
“When it comes to leaders in public office, we need to look at their agendas more than at their gender,” she said.
In fielding one question from an overwhelmingly female audience, Gardner said she did not expect only women to be interested in voting for a female leader.
But one of the few male students at the talk, who asked to remain anonymous, said he attended the talk simply because he was trying to please his politically active girlfriend.
Gardner also spoke about the daily work she undertakes at her organization — including outreach efforts targeting young women through Facebook and other social networking Web sites. WVWV also sends traditional mailings to their chosen audience, she said.
Although few undergraduates attended the talk, many students interviewed on campus said they would support a female presidential candidate.
Allison Collins ’11 said even though she does not think a woman will be elected president in 2008, she believes a female president would be fully capable of running the country.
“I would definitely vote for a woman if I liked her as a candidate,” Collins said.
Sam Jackson ’11 said he thinks most Americans are ready to vote for a female presidential candidate.
“Women are just as able to lead as men are,” Jackson said.
Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 is currently the only female in the race to become the Democratic candidate for president.