Imagine for a moment that you’re a senior political strategist for Donald Trump (bear with me!) and you’ve just finished reading the eighth article this week about the gender gap in his favorability scores. Congratulations: it’s your job to fix it.
First, put aside Republican women for a moment – those who don’t yet support you may still come around when they recover from their crushing disappointment that Trump is the last man standing. Next, forget the Democratic women who will sooner move to Canada than pull the lever for Trump.
That leaves 30 million voting-age women in the U.S. who do not identify with either party, have watched the primary process from a distance (if at all), and within that population there’s some good news and bad news for Trump.
Here’s what we know about this group according to a recent poll by the analytics firm Resonate:
The bad news first: 46 percent of them have been following the primary election or his Twitter feed closely enough to know that they want no part of The Donald (“strongly unfavorable”). That’s compared to only 10 percent who feel “strongly favorable” toward him. The second problem is that of the 16 million politically independent women who ARE favorable or persuadable to Trump, 36 percent are not even registered to vote. And they’ve certainly had the time: only 10 percent of these persuadable women are ages 18-24.
But for those who are receptive, and can be registered, there’s some good news for Trump. These would-be voters are more likely to be motivated to chose candidates who are focused on crime and law enforcement, about which Trump has effectively used strong, if divisive rhetoric, such as “murderers” and “rapists.” Healthcare policy is a close second, on which Trump has repeatedly broken ranks with his party. That deviation makes sense when you consider that only 35 percent of these persuadable voters consider themselves fiscal conservatives, and only 26 percent are social conservatives. Finally, these voters are 32 percent less likely to prioritize foreign policy, for which Trump’s lack of experience (global pageantry aside) could otherwise be a liability.
Among the independent females who vote based more on shared values than shared issues, Trump can connect with this group’s greater focus on self-esteem (18 percent higher than the general population of U.S. adults), as well as sharing experiences and belonging, all of which are well aligned with the “us versus them” narratives that populate Trump’s campaign messages. Interestingly, patriotism is generally less motivating to these voters as a core value, so “Make America Great Again” may translate as “Make me and my people great again.”
Hillary Clinton will, of course, be campaigning to win these same female persuadable voters, 37 percent of whom have “no opinion” on the former two-term first lady, senator, presidential candidate, and secretary of State. If that seems extraordinary – it is, given that only 18 percent of the general population has “no opinion” of her. However, persuadable women are also twice as likely to say they “don’t care about politics,” which is a reminder to the political chattering classes that not everyone schedules their social activities around the presidential primary calendar like insiders do.
When you present your strategy to Mr. Trump, you can lay it out like this: you have an audience of 10 million registered, independent, persuadable female voters. You can share their issue positions – to the extent theirs (or yours) are clear. You can share their values, and fan their fears. You can manipulate their apathy, and stoke their cynicism. And if you can’t make them like you, that’s okay, because all you need is for them to like Hilary even less.
This column by Andy Hunn originally appeared in USNews.