“I would not want to go to war with him in office,” Anderson’s Nicole Kapuscinski, a combat veteran, says of Joe Biden. Richard Sitler | The Herald Bulletin
“I would not want to go to war with him in office,” Anderson’s Nicole Kapuscinski, a combat veteran, says of Joe Biden. Richard Sitler | The Herald Bulletin
The race between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump could be clearly decided in November by women.

Women voters have long played a pivotal role in elections. Since 1966, more women than men have cast ballots, and in 2020 nearly 10 million more women than men did so, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University– New Brunswick.

Combine that with front-and-center issues such as abortion access and reproductive health care that directly impact women, and their votes will likely play an even more outsized role in who wins the presidency in November.

Kelly Dittmar, a political scientist and director of research at the Rutgers’ center, said overall in this election cycle who the nation’s largest voting bloc will throw their weight behind is far from certain.

“Obviously, women are not monolithic,” she said. “It depends on which women you’re talking about, and the different ways in which they could have a significant influence on the outcome of this election.”

Women’s race, age, economic status and where they live all factor into what issues are important to them and how they view Trump and Biden, Dittmar said.

The much-anticipated debate between the two candidates has also shaped how each is viewed, too, especially surrounding Biden’s fitness to serve another four-year term given his poor performance.

“I was hoping he would be geared up and prepared to stand out as the clear choice against Trump,” said Emma Hansen, a Democrat from Salem, New Hampshire.

She said she found Biden’s performance so “jarring” that she questions if he should step down.

“I think that the Democratic Party should have thought more seriously about running Biden again, even though he is running for re-election,” she asserted.

Early polls show close margins between the candidates among women, with both campaigns focusing on the nuances that could sway them.

“The message that attracts college- educated white women voters is probably going to be different than the message that’s going resonate most with non-college-educated Black women,” she said. “They are just differences in the day-to-day lived experiences and priorities for those women.”

But universally, the cost of living looms large.


Forty percent of women voters say the increased cost of food, gas and other goods is the most important issue determining their vote in the 2024 presidential race, according to a June poll by KFF, an independent research organization.

That’s the case for Monica Atkinson, a 23-year-old nurse and recent college graduate from Mankato, Minnesota. She said she has a good job, but she still lives with four other women to make ends meet.

“I can’t imagine living on my own and trying to raise a family with the cost of living right now,” Atkinson said.

As a social liberal but fiscal conservative, she said the issue of inflation is pushing her to vote for Trump.

Cindy Graham, a 68-year-old from Weatherford, Texas, said the “horrible” economy is also a major reason she’s planning to vote for Trump in November. She pointed to a recent trip to Walmart, where laundry and dish soap, fabric softener, toilet paper and paper towels cost her nearly $130.

“That’s why I think we need a businessman in the White House, not a politician,” Graham said.

Callie Stout, a 26-year-old also from Weatherford, Texas, is worried about inflation, too, but she thinks Biden has done a better job than Trump of getting it under control and stabilizing the economy.

“Our situation is much better than it could have been,” she said. “I think we owe that to the Biden administration.”

That view is not universal among Democratic women. The KFF poll found that even among Biden supporters, nearly half don’t approve of how he’s handled inflation. The numbers are even higher for young, Black, Hispanic and low-income women.


While the economy is still the central issue, abortion could be a major reason why many head to the polls. Twenty-one states have abortion bans or restrict the procedure earlier in pregnancy than the standard set by Roe v. Wade, which was overturned in 2022.

A record-high 32% of U.S. voters say they would only cast their ballot for a candidate for a major office who shares their views on abortion, according to a Gallup poll conducted in May.

Notably, nearly twice as many pro-choice (40%) as pro-life voters (22%) say they will only vote for a candidate who shares their views.

Patricia O’Roark, a 77-year-old retired attorney from Carl Junction, Missouri, is one of those pro-choice voters who refuses to cast a ballot for any candidate endorsing abortion restrictions more stringent than Roe v. Wade.

“I believe that women should … be able to make that decision with their health professionals without the interference of the state,” she said.

Meg Phinney, a theater teacher from Dalton, Georgia, said she’s voting for Biden mostly to keep Trump out of office, but access to reproductive healthcare also factors heavily into her choice.

She said it seems ironic that abortion access has become a Democratic issue, considering Republicans believe in “freedom to choose and less government.”

“I have two sisters and most of the people in my family are women,” Phinney said. “I feel a need to protect them.”

Madison Sanders, a 32-year-old mother from Terre Haute, Indiana, said she’s voting for Trump and strongly opposes abortion. She does believe there are circumstances in which it’s warranted, including ectopic pregnancy and spontaneous miscarriage.

But those situations are not the same as “walking into an abortion clinic and saying ‘I don’t want this baby anymore,’” she said.

Dittmar, the Rutgers political scientist, said although abortion access will influence whether women vote for Trump or Biden, it’s unlikely the issue will outplay inflation.

“We too often say that all women will be mobilized this cycle by abortion, when in fact that’s not true,” she said. “The most important issue for women overall is still the economy. It’s still about, ‘Can I pay my bills and can I support my family?’”


A central common concern has more to do with the candidates than their policy positions. Six in 10 women say they aren’t satisfied with either Biden or Trump, according to the KFF poll.

That’s leading Madison Jacob, a 35-year-old comedian from Salem, Massachusetts, to consider a third-party candidate. She said she voted for Biden in 2020 as the “lesser of two evils,” but now they both seem equally bad.

“It feels like the lesser of two evils isn’t that lesser,” said Jacob, a transgender woman.

Although neither candidate is popular, Biden is winning the personality contest. Twothirds of women who said they would vote for him are doing so because of his personality. Just 40% of women said they will vote for Trump because of his personality, the KFF poll found.

Audrey Schneider, a 46-year-old from Shamokin, Pennsylvania, said she voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020 and she plans to vote for him again based on policy, not personality.

“I don’t like his style,” Schneider said. “I wish he would tone down his language, all the name caalling. But I like that he carried through on his pledges when he was president, the Supreme Court judges he appointed, tax cuts, and no involvement in wars.”

Mary Megaw, a 77-year-old resident from Mankato, Minnesota, said she’s voting for Biden in part because she “respects” him and thinks he’s doing a good job as president.

“He could be pleasantly retired, but he’s so worried about the nation that he and Jill (Biden) give some of their senior years to try to help us,” she said.

Republican women are far more enthusiastic about Trump than Democrats are about Biden. The KFF poll reports that twice as many Republicans who are 50 or older are “very satisfied” with Trump (32%) than Democrats for Biden (15%). The same holds for women between the ages of 18 and 49.

Mary Ann Huggans, a 54-year-old Realtor from Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, said she will gladly vote for Trump, who she believes will help get America back on the right path.

“He’s the right choice for me because we need a candidate who is able to not be beholden to anyone, but be able to do what’s best for the country,” she said. “He’s the one who can help us escape the clutches of the machine.”

Phinney, the theater teacher from Georgia who said she will likely vote for Biden, said she’s not enthusiastic about casting a ballot for an 81-yearold. Her vote is more about keeping 78-year-old Trump out of office, she explained.

“I’m really tired of the super old men,” Phinney said. “I don’t think they’re doing a very good job and we should pick somebody else. Personally, I would like to see someone under the age of 50 in office.”


That sentiment was reinforced during the first debate in June between Trump and Biden.

Biden’s mumbling voice, halting speech and unfocused performance made the president seem tired and unenergized, said Laura Merrifield Wilson, a political scientist at the University of Indianapolis.

Trump, on the other hand, surprised many viewers with his overall measured responses and composure, Wilson said, despite issuing a barrage of lies and exaggerations throughout the 90-minute debate.

State Rep. Valerie McDonnell, a 20-year-old Republican from Salem, New Hampshire, said the debate further solidified her position and support for Trump “Joe Biden was flustered and was even incomprehensible at times,” McDonnell said. “It is unfathomable for Biden to assume a second term, especially following his inept debate performance.”

Kellie Kelley, founder of a civic-engagement nonprofit in Anderson, Indiana, said she was disheartened by the entire debate and left with questions about the country’s future.

“Neither party has a candidate that will restore confidence, which is what the country needs,” she said. “Where do we go from here?”

She’ll vote for Biden, but believes neither party has presented a viable candidate. That was proven during the debate, she argued, when both Trump and Biden showed little ability to lead the nation.

“I think it gave everybody pause to re-evaluate the political system we participate in,” she said.
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