Over the past few months of campaigning, U.S. President Donald Trump has been trying to appeal to a demographic he is losing a grip on — suburban women.
And according to Clifford Young, president of Ipsos Public Affairs, the women who are turning away from Trump will either vote for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, or not vote at all.
But Trump has had problems with suburban women voters, many of whom gave him a chance in 2016, as they are now troubled by his child separation policy and his caustic, divisive language, Young explained.
He is losing the suburban female vote and he’s trying to get it back, Young said.
“It’s very important to him. Suburban, moderately Republican women, it’s a very important voting bloc to the Republican base,” he said.
Last week during a campaign rally in Pennsylvania, Trump seemed confounded by his unpopularity with that voting base.
“Somebody said ‘I don’t think the suburban women like you, they may not like the way you talk’,” Trump said at the rally. “Suburban women should like me more than anyone here tonight.”
“Suburban women, would you please like me?” he asked. “I saved your damn neighborhood OK — we saved suburbia in the U.S. I think we’re going to see that the women really like Trump a lot.”
Trump had the white women vote in 2016
In 2016, white women — specifically white suburban women — helped vote Trump into the White House.
According to exit poll data from the New York Times, more than half of the white women who voted in the 2016 presidential election cast their ballot for Trump. Ninety-four per cent of Black women who voted and 68 per cent of Hispanic or Latino female voters chose Hillary Clinton, but 53 per cent of all white female voters picked Trump.
Read more: Who voted for Donald Trump?
“He took most of the base with him in 2016, but they went the other way during the 2018 mid-term elections,” Young said, adding that the president needs to gain some of the votes back in order to have “any path to victory.”
What the polls say now
Trump has tried to appeal to “the suburban housewives of America,” as he called them. But there is no sign of this working.
In a Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted on Oct. 6-9, female voters preferred Biden to Trump by 23 points.
In battleground state Michigan, white women with a college degree preferred Biden (62 per cent) to Trump (33 per cent). And white women without a college degree narrowly preferred Biden to Trump, (52 percent to 45 percent) according to an NBC News/Marist poll that was conducted on Sept.19-Sept. 23.
A Pew Research Center poll conducted Sept. 30-Oct. 5, found that suburban women preferred Biden by 19 points.
Young believes that some women have turned away from Trump for a number of reasons.
“His behaviour, his misogyny, and his policy against the separation of immigrant families have had an important impact for women,” he said. “It’s really an accumulation of things.”
The Trump campaign is using a few strategies to try and bring back the votes of suburban women, Young said, such as promoting Trump’s daughter Ivanka to campaign in key battleground states.
Trump is also using a “law and order game,” which is trying to scare the suburban voters into thinking crime will overflow into their neighborhoods if they don’t vote for Trump, Young added.
“But none of them have been necessarily effective,” he said.
Sarah Longwell, a Republican strategist who frequently conducts focus groups with people who voted for Trump in 2016, told Politico that the president is running out of time.
“The bottom is falling out for Trump with women and with college-educated voters in the suburbs,” Longwell said. “The only way he can win with numbers like that with women is if there’s this massive surge of white working-class men in some of these key swing states.”
Why the women vote matters
“The fact is that American suburbs are now extraordinarily diverse – over 30 per cent of women, people of color, live in American suburbs,” Leader said. “Turnout is everything. And it’s especially everything in those all-important battleground states, where it does often come down to just a few thousand votes.”
— With files from Reuters