Days into Donald Trump’s presidency, a large number of liberals say they plan to step up their political activity, with Democratic women particularly motivated to take action, according to a new Washington Post poll.
The results suggest that the “women’s marches” immediately after Trump’s inauguration, which brought hundreds of thousands of demonstrators into the nation’s streets to protest his agenda, could reflect something more than a momentary burst in activism.
The poll found that 40 percent of Democratic women say they will become more involved in political causes this year, compared with 25 percent of Americans more broadly and 27 percent of Democratic men. Nearly half of liberal Democrats also say they will become more politically active, as do 43 percent of Democrats younger than 50. Interest in boosting activism is far lower — 21 percent — among independents and Republicans alike.
“I have called my senators. I called my congressman. I am sending emails. . . . I just donated $100 to the ACLU,” said Iris Dubois, 49, a lawyer and human relations manager in Atlanta, referring to the American Civil Liberties Union. She did not join her local women’s march but has nevertheless become more politically engaged — particularly in opposing Trump’s cabinet picks.
For some, the activism has been more subtle. Brenda Tucker, 63, a school bus driver from Yorktown, Va., said she didn’t march and hasn’t written any letters. But she is speaking up more at church, where many of her fellow congregants back the president. “I call them out on their Christianity,” Tucker said, noting her dislike of Trump. “Everybody should be doing something, like marching, on everything he does. . . . Obviously, the majority of people did not want him.”
The breadth of activist leanings from the left follows a deeply divisive election in which Trump defeated Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, the first female nominee of a major party to vie for the presidency. His treatment of women became an issue for his campaign, particularly after the release of a videotaped conversation in which he boasted about grabbing women's genitals.
Overall, female voters preferred Clinton by a 13 percentage-point margin, according to exit polls, with more than 7 in 10 of her female supporters saying a Trump presidency made them feel “scared.”
The new survey results echo what took place after President Barack Obama took office in 2009. Conservative voters, stunned and outraged by the election results, immediately began organizing to remake the Republican Party platform and block Obama’s agenda under a loosely affiliated movement called the tea party.
The movement was effective, leading two years later to a sweep of state and congressional seats by conservative Republicans. But it remains to be seen whether the surge in liberal activism can coalesce into a similarly powerful force.
In the Post poll, majorities say they have heard a lot about the women’s marches and that they support the demonstrations — representing wider awareness and support than the tea party movement held at the height of its power in 2010.
Organizers of the women’s marches are certainly trying to parlay the protests into something more sustained. Immediately after the Jan. 21 gatherings, they launched an effort dubbed “10 actions for the first 100 days,” which included postcard-writing campaigns to members of Congress. Other liberal activists have launched major phone campaigns to protest Trump’s agenda to lawmakers as well as to Trump’s resorts and other businesses. A National Education Association campaign yielded more than 1 million emails to senators from people opposing Trump’s education secretary nominee, Betsy DeVos.
On Tuesday, march organizers Bob Bland and Tamika Mallory gathered with other activists near the Capitol to call for senators to reject Trump’s nominee for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.).
“The women’s march on Washington aims to send a message to all levels of government and the current administration that we can stand together in solidarity and expect elected leaders to protect the rights of women, their families and their communities,” organizers said in a statement.
But some women expressed skepticism that the marches could translate into political change.
“I like what the women are protesting for, but I am not sure that protesting will really do anything,” said Angelica Rodriguez, 22, a college student and in-home health aide in San Antonio. “I don’t think anyone in office is going to take the women’s marches seriously or take their concerns seriously when it comes to passing the laws.”
Rodriguez said she supported Clinton but did not vote. Now, she expects to feel the pain: She is worried she will lose access to free birth control, which she gets through the Affordable Care Act. Republicans, including Trump, have pledged to repeal the law.
Some voters see Trump’s actions speaking louder than his words and do not fear the effect on women.
Magdalene Rose, 66, a retiree from Phoenix who voted for Clinton, noted that Trump has daughters and appointed a woman, pollster Kellyanne Conway, as his White House counselor. While she has misgivings about the rest of his agenda, “that’s one of the few things I’m not worried about,” she said.
The survey was conducted Wednesday through Sunday among a random sample of 1,018 adults nationwide reached on cellular and landline phones and carries a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Asked about the recent women’s marches, 60 percent say they support or lean toward supporting them while 29 percent oppose them or lean in opposition. One-third say they support the marches “strongly,” while 13 percent are strongly opposed.
The Post poll finds a sharp gap in plans for activism depending on views of the women’s marches. Roughly one-third of those who support the marches say they plan to become more politically active, rising to 46 percent among those who support them “strongly.” By comparison, 13 percent of those who oppose the march plan to increase their political activity, including 18 percent who strongly oppose the demonstrations.
Americans are far more divided along partisan lines rather than gender lines toward the women’s marches. Nearly 9 in 10 Democrats support the women’s marches (87 percent), as do 58 percent of political independents. Republicans hold largely negative views of the marches, though they are not as unified as Democrats: 27 percent support the marches, while 59 percent are opposed.
Women and men are about equally positive toward the women’s marches, 61 percent and 60 percent in support, respectively, though women are 7 percentage points more likely to express strong support. Within partisan camps, women and men report similar views of the demonstrations.
A 57 percent majority say they heard a lot about the women’s march protests, suggesting that the single day of demonstrations garnered as much attention as the tea party movement attained through months of organization and protests. Pew Research Center polls in 2010 found the percentage of registered voters who heard “a lot” about the movement rising from 31 percent in March to a peak of 54 percent in late October, just before congressional elections.
Emily Guskin contributed to this report.