Political scientist says lower female voting rates in Texas linked to low voter turnout in general in state
Concerned over findings from a national study, several Texas chapters of the League of Women Voters are currently conducting surveys to discover the reasons why women don't vote. The chapters are passing out their informal opinion polls at events to register voters for this November's election.
The national study from the Institute for Women's Policy Research showed that only 41.7 percent of Texas women reported voting in the 1998 congressional election and the 2000 presidential election, ranking Texas 49th among the 50 states in the percentage of women who voted. Only Arizona, with 41.4 percent women voters, ranked lower. In addition, Texas was ranked 43 in the number of women registered to vote, according to the study.
A University of North Texas political scientist, however, points out Texas' problem is not with low voter turnout for women, but low voter turnout in general.
Dr. Mathieu Turgeon, UNT assistant professor of political science, researches political participation, elections, political campaigns and public opinion and has published studies in "Electoral Studies" and "Social Science Quarterly," among other professional journals. He points out that before the 1980 presidential election, women in general voted less than men, "but that is not true anymore."
"They actually turn out more than men, particularly the younger generations," he says. "There is no problem with women turnout as compared to men. Turnout in Texas is generally very low, irrespective of gender."
The Institute for Women's Policy Research noted that Minnesota had the highest percentage of women voters, at 67.9 percent. Turgeon says that state has had more competitive congressional and gubernatorial elections in the past than Texas has had, which would explain, in part, the higher voter turnout.
"Voter turnout in Minnesota is always among the highest, again irrespective of gender," he says.
He agreed, however, with the institute's finding of a growing gender gap in attitudes among male and female voters, noting that women generally favor more funding for more social services for child care, education, health care and other areas, which are generally endorsed by Democratic candidates.
"Their support for the Republican party is generally lower than that of men," he says.
Texans have until Oct. 10 to register to vote in the Nov. 7 gubernatorial election, with early voting beginning Oct. 23 and continuing through Nov. 3.