On Saturday, one day after Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, the Women’s March on Washington is expected to bring tens of thousands of demonstrators to Washington, D.C., many of whom will be there to protest Trump’s past behavior and current policies.
Women voted against Trump by wide margins, and Trump remains deeply unpopular among women. But organizers say Saturday’s march is about more than protesting Trump himself. Among the marchers will be representatives of dozens of groups that advocate for a diverse array of issues, including women’s health care, immigration reform, pay equity, family leave and the elimination of poverty.
“I don’t think this march is even about him,” said Sung Yeon Choimorrow, the interim executive director at the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, one of the groups joining the march. “It’s about what we want, what we are going to protect, and what we are going to fight for.”
The gender gap in the 2016 election was bigger than ever
Hillary Clinton won among women by about 14 percentage points, according to exit polls.1 The only candidate since 1964 to win the women’s vote by a larger margin was Bill Clinton, who won women’s votes by about 20 points on the way to his landslide re-election in 1996. Bill Clinton, however, also won (barely) among men. Hillary Clinton lost men’s votes by 12.5 percentage points, the worst Democratic loss among men since 1988.
While it’s not unusual for men and women to vote very differently, 2016 was in a class by itself. Between 1980, when Democrats first began to enjoy a comparative advantage among women, and 2012, the average gender gap2 in presidential elections was 15 percentage points. In 2016, the gender gap was 26.5 percentage points. That’s larger than it’s been in any year since at least 1952, and it blows away the old record of 20 percentage points in 1996.
The record gender gap isn’t hard to understand. A Clinton victory would have meant putting a woman in the Oval Office for the first time, which would, as Clinton described it, “shatter the highest, hardest glass ceiling.” Conversely, Trump has a long history of making controversial, often sexist statements about women, and he was caught on tape bragging about being able to commit sexual assault. Surveys conducted both before and after the “Access Hollywood” tape became public found that voters who expressed sexist views such as “women are too easily offended” were more likely to support Trump.
Women were not universal in their support of Clinton
Although women overall voted for Clinton by a large margin, much of that support came from well-educated white women, who voted for Clinton by about 16 percentage points, and women of color, who voted for her by 67 points. Trump won among white women by an average of 6.5 percentage points, according to exit polls, and he did particularly well with white women without a college degree, winning among that group by about 24 percentage points.
But all told, most demographic groups of women voted against Trump. Clinton won among women in every age bracket, though she barely won women over the age of 64. Clinton won Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and atheist and agnostic voters by over 60 percentage points each, according to SurveyMonkey. She won among women who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual by a similarly wide margin.
The gender gap persists in Trump’s approval ratings
Even after the election, Trump remains largely unpopular among women. A poll conducted in December and released Tuesday by PerryUndem, a nonpartisan research and polling firm, found that 60 percent of women view Trump unfavorably and 36 percent view him favorably, for a net favorability of -24 points. Among men, by contrast, Trump is only modestly unpopular, with a net favorability rating of -3.
Trump’s comments about and behavior toward women are a big part of his unpopularity. Among Americans who say they were upset by the Access Hollywood tape, 73 percent view Trump unfavorably, PerryUndem found. Among the 16 percent of survey respondents who said they were “not at all upset” by the tape, 69 percent viewed Trump favorably. Indeed, PerryUndem found that after party affiliation, the No. 1 predictor of people’s attitude toward Trump — stronger than political ideology, race or age — was how they reacted to his behavior toward women.3
Trump’s win has left many women, particularly women of color and members of the LGBTQ community, concerned about their futures. In the PerryUndem survey, 42 percent of all women said Trump’s victory would make more women feel unsafe; among Latina women, that number was 67 percent. The survey also found that Trump’s comments about women made 17 percent of women feel personally unsafe. And while 45 percent of all respondents felt in the weeks after the election that it was a good time to be a white woman in America, only 27 percent felt it was a good time to be a black woman and 24 percent thought it was a good time to be a Latina. Only 11 percent of respondents felt it was a good time to be a Muslim woman in America.
Trump’s comments may spur participation, but march organizers have bigger goals
Trump’s remarks about women could be directly driving a new wave of activism. PerryUndem asked how likely Americans were to take action following the election, including by paying more attention to the actions of elected officials or getting more involved with political issues. The researchers found that the biggest predictor of who said they would take action was not a person’s party identification or political ideology but how they reacted to Trump’s comments about women.
That might help explain why over 400 organizations have partnered with the Women’s March on Washington. But the march has recently come under fire from pro-life advocates after a group that opposes abortion was added to and then quickly removed from the list of the event’s partners. Critics say that the march functionally excludes pro-life women, despite its inclusive message, by including access to abortion in its list of principles. Organizers have not backed down, issuing a statement affirming their stance on reproductive rights.
Many groups who are planning to attend have been drawn at least in part by organizers’ efforts to link Trump’s comments about women to his policies on issues such as reproductive rights, immigration and other issues that they feel could harm women if handled badly.
“We’re going to demonstrate that these different movements are linked,” said Thanu Yakupitiyage, senior communications manager of the New York Immigration Coalition. “A lot people said that Trump didn’t mean what he said, but when we look at his nominations, we see he clearly does mean what he said about stripping rights away from women and immigrants.”
Health care, a dividing issue in the election, remains at the fore
Women who voted for Trump generally felt very differently about abortion and the government funds that go to Planned Parenthood than did women who voted for Clinton, but when it comes other areas of women’s health and reproductive rights, the two groups are much more closely aligned.
The PerryUndem poll asked survey-takers whether they would support a president who worked to ensure access to quality, affordable birth control and found that 85 percent of all respondents would, including 95 percent of women who voted for Clinton and 74 percent of women who voted for Trump.
Similarly, both groups of women express almost equal support for policies that would improve access to affordable child care. Furthermore, 94 percent of women who voted Clinton and 81 percent of women who voted for Trump said they want Congress to ensure that working people receive paid family and medical leave.
You’ll probably be hearing a lot more about women’s health in the first weeks of Trump’s administration. Last week, Trump transition officials held a conference call with the House Ways And Means Committee to push a proposal for child care reform, and the Senate has made it clear that repealing Obamacare (which would include removing a requirement that insurers cover birth control without demanding a copay), is at the top of their agenda.