Women & Politics Institute analyzes midterm elections during Women on Wednesdays series

Panelists discussed top issues for female voters, women running for office

Women & Politics Institute analyzes midterm elections during Women on Wednesdays series

American University’s Women & Politics Institute offered insight into the midterm election outcomes during its recurring Women on Wednesdays webinar on Nov. 9. 

Panelists at the event, facilitated by the center’s Executive Director Betsy Fischer Martin, included Executive Director of the Barbara Lee Family Foundation Amanda Hunter, President of Bellwether Research & Consulting Christine Matthews and Omara Strategy Group President Atima Omara. 

The midterm election was surprising in a number of ways, according to the panelists. Despite a widely predicted Republican Party takeover of Congress, the GOP gained only a slim majority in the House and did not manage a majority in the Senate. There was also a record breaking turnout from youth voters. According to Matthews, the overturning of Roe v. Wade might have been what turned the tide.

“There was some sort of narrative that the abortion issue had receded in terms of importance, but I don't think it did for key voting cohorts,”  Matthews said. “In fact, quite the opposite — I think it motivated young women and to some degree, Independent [Party] women [and] Democratic women.” 

In addition to the Democratic Party retaining more seats than expected, there were five ballot initiatives across Michigan, California, Kentucky, Vermont and Montana through which voters affirmed abortion rights to some degree. 

The panelists also discussed the historic number of women elected to office on both sides of the aisle.

“We are really excited that, regardless of who wins the outstanding races, we are going to break a record, and really already have, in terms of the amount of women running as governor,” Hunter said.

However, despite the overarching success for women as a whole, there is a noticeable disparity by race. Following the 2022 midterm, there will be no Black women holding public office at the gubernatorial level or in the Senate. Omara said there are a number of additional obstacles women of color, particularly Black women, face when running for public office.

“I think it has everything to do with some of the research the [Barbara] Lee foundation put out about the stereotypes of women leadership and then having it exacerbated by race,” Omara said. She went on to say that Black women are more likely to be stereotyped as emotional or angry in political forums.  

However, Quashire said she remains hopeful that having Black women running competitive campaigns this election cycle, even if they lost, will encourage other Black women and women of color to run in the future.

“It's a loss in one sense, but really, 30 years from now when we look back, this might be the moment when they started the spark that pushed other Black women to get registered,” Quashire said. 

All four panelists agreed this midterm election set a historic precedent for women in politics. 

"I think we're at the mark where, either party, you can't run anyone without thinking about where do women fit on your ticket,” Quarshie said. “I don't know if we'll ever go back to a point where we're asking 'where is the women and what’s going on?' I think we're past the point of that."


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