During the 2012 elections, the Democratic and Republican campaigns have spent heavily to sway swing states and the women's vote. Both campaigns see these groups as vital to winning the Presidency, hoping that the televised debates would make a major impact. The women's vote was solidly behind Barack Obama in 2008.
At Daycare.com, we polled our forum members after each presidential and vice-presidential debate. Our membership is 95% women, with 66% of members between 30 and 50 years old.
After the first debate, our members were evenly divided between the two tickets, and they offered specific reasons about their choices. One member gave her reasons, point by point: "Obama because...My College age son has health insurance; I was able to refinance my underwater home. Romney...Wanted to let the auto industry tank; Wanted to let housing market tank."
Many felt that a gender gap existed, voicing concern that Romney would only worsen it. One member stated, "Romney scares me. I actively worked for Women's Rights in the 70's. I thought it was settled." Another challenged, "When he has a uterus he can talk to me about what to do with mine."
Even so, others members felt that the economy was their number one concern, stating that the nation's debt of sixteen trillion dollars needs to be reined in. Some felt that many Americans take advantage of government entitlements, such as one member who wrote, "Wow, when I graduated from college I paid all my student loans in FULL. I am not THAT old!"
The first debate made it apparent that the election is much closer than previously portrayed. Of our voting members, about 10% were either undecided or chose to vote for a third party. This representative sample of the undecided vote would capture the campaigns' attentions during the next debate.
Soon after the vice-presidential debate closed, Daycare.com saw an exact split amongst our forum members. While some claimed that Joe Biden handily won the debate, many members were turned off by his interruptions and facial gestures. One comment reflected this mood: "I'd love to focus on what these two are saying but I can't get past the mocking and arrogance coming from Biden that is literally seeping through my TV screen and making me want to vomit."
Much of the our forum conversation was produced after the first presidential debate. Was there a pattern that might guide the campaigns' persuasion? Again, it seemed issues presisted on equal rights, as one commenter wrote, "We can all act offended like he(Romney) isn't giving women equal rights, but let's be real: Women are still the ones who do most of the childcare, housework, cooking, etc for the family. AND women are also working outside of the home."
The second presidential debate showed a recurrence of the previous close split in votes. Notably, however, our undecided contingent shrank by half. One member feared that those who profit from entitlements would perpetuate a status quo, stating, "Obama has run a smart campaign and has targeted college students, people getting services and he has the support of minorities."while another felt that the Affordable Health Care Act was helping Americans: "20.4 million women have already taken advantage of and received no-cost coverage of other preventive services."
At this point, our members clearly felt comfortable with the issues, which included the economy, unemployment, and women's rights. While President Obama was seen as a clear winner, it appeared that Mitt Romney was now perceived as a viable candidate as his supporters coalesced around his position.
The final presidential debate surprised us, showing a sudden shift in the balance of votes. For the first time in our polling, Romney/Ryan edged out the Democratic ticket by nearly two to one. By this point, there was very little continued conversation on the issues, and no undecided votes, as our members have evidently settled on a position.
While our forum polls were of a small focus group, we found it interesting to track the voting distribution over the course of the presidential debates. While our final numbers stand in contrast to the initial reading, our members are but a part of the 2012 voting process. However, it is clear that both campaigns have worked hard to sway the female contingent. Have the debates made an impact? Our results say yes.