A recent Washington Post poll shows that nearly 6 in 10 white women in Alabama are likely to vote for Roy Moore, the Republican Senate candidate facing allegations of sexually assaulting multiple teenage girls when he was in his 30s.
After the 2016 presidential election, women on the left called out the 53 percent of white women who helped elect Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, the first female nominee of a major political party. Trump also faced more than a dozen allegations of sexual assault during his campaign.
Last spring, actress Tina Fey warned white, college-educated women who had supported Trump that their votes would have negative consequences for them.
“A lot of this election was turned by white, college-educated women who now would like to forget about this election and go back to watching HGTV,” Fey said during an April Facebook Live fundraiser for the American Civil Liberties Union. “You can’t look away because it doesn’t affect you this minute, but it’s going to affect you eventually.”
But other contests over the past year have suggested Republican white women in the Trump era may be more likely to support candidates who oppose abortion rights, favor defunding Planned Parenthood and support the president's conservative vision. Most white women in Virginia — 51 percent — backed Republican Ed Gillespie, whom Trump endorsed, in the state's gubernatorial race. Gillespie went on to lose to Democrat Ralph Northam.
Moore can count White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) and other female political leaders in Alabama among his backers.
White women’s support for the GOP may have drawn special attention this past year, given the sexual assault allegations Trump and Moore face. But despite the narrative that Republicans struggle with female voters, that hasn’t been the case at the national level.
After Republican Mitt Romney lost the 2012 presidential election, the New Yorker's John Cassidy wrote:
Why did so many white women vote for Romney despite his shift to the right on women’s issues during the G.O.P. primaries? One way to tackle this question is to ask why so many white men voted for him. Surely, many of the same factors that motivated white male Romney supporters played into the decision-making of white female Romney supporters. After all, in many cases, the members of the two groups are married to each other, and are shaped by the same cultural and economic environment. (To be clear, I am not suggesting that white women vote Republican because their husbands do. Women make up their own minds.)
The Post poll shows that women in Alabama have made up their minds about Moore; the majority say they do not believe —or have no opinion — about the allegations against him. About four in 10 women said they believe Moore made unwanted sexual advances toward his accusers, according to the poll.
Alisha Maddalena, a 51-year-old server at a restaurant outside Montgomery, Ala., and the vice president of the Alabama chapter of Bikers for Trump, told The Post's James Hohmann: “Why would [Moore's accusers] allow him to sit in public office passing judgment on people for 40 years if he had done any of these things? Why wait 40 years to bring it up?”
Even if some women are uncomfortable with the allegations, the abortion issue remains a litmus test for how many women in the Bible Belt vote. Many conservative Christian women are simply not interested in sending a person to Washington who supports abortion rights.
That point was quite evident during a CNN interview Tuesday with Moore spokeswoman Janet Porter, who told interviewer Poppy Harlow, who is pregnant: “Doug Jones says you can take the life of that baby. [Moore will] stand for the rights of babies like yours, in the womb, where his opponent will support killing them up until the moment of birth.”
Wetumpka Tea Party founder Becky Gerritson told supporters that she organized the “Women for Moore” rally outside the state capitol last month to show the media just how many women view Moore favorably. “I assure you, we could have filled these steps with hundreds, if not thousands, of women who could attest to Roy Moore's professionalism, respectful behavior and good character,” she said.
Elections continue to prove that the female vote is not a monolith. But in the Trump era, election results are increasingly showing that white women may not be the swing voters Democrats once believed.