Its clear Sen. John McCain hopes to attract former Hillary Clinton supporters by choosing Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, according to University of Notre Dame political scientist Christina Wolbrecht, who specializes in gender politics, political parties and mass behavior.
But, Wolbrecht cautions, the strategy could backfire.
Its not clear from any of the evidence that women voters vote overwhelmingly just for the woman candidate,she said.Partisanship and policy positions are much more important in determining how someone votes, than whether or not they share the same gender with the candidate.I think the McCain campaign risks looking like they believe this is what they had to do to appeal to women voters and, in a sense, insulting former Clinton voters by simply saying, We have a woman and therefore you can just bring your loyalties over here.
Author of the award-winning bookThe Politics of Womens Rights: Parties, Positions, and Change,Wolbrecht says women candidates are scrutinized differently than their male counterparts.
People are already talking about (Palins) lack of experience, compared with Barack Obamas lack of experience,Wolbrecht said.Were going to hear about the fact that she has five children.Whos going to care for those children?Theyre young.We havent heard much about Barack Obamas young children.
A video of Wolbrechts thoughts on McCain and Palin is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmcCqyuvCRY
Wolbrecht, an associate professor of political science and former director of the Universitys Program in American Democracy, has been a member of the Notre Dame faculty since 1997.She also is co-author of a study published in 2006 in the Journal of Politics that shows the more women politicians are made visible in national news coverage, the more likely young women are to become politically active.
Currently, Wolbrecht is engaged in a collaborative project that uses ecological inference techniques to examine womens voting behavior and its impact on the American political system in the period immediately following the granting of womens suffrage in 1920.
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