May 5, 2013

Sunday Focus: Woman in Politics

  The Alabama Political Science Association convened in Tuscaloosa last month to discuss women in politics, and it was a timely gathering.
   
     Alabama is now one of four states with the lowest percentages of female legislators, and Alabama's numbers have dropped a bit in the past year, according to the Association of State Legislatures.

Year     % of woman in Legislature

2009    12.1
2010    12.9
2011    13.6
2012    13.6
2013    12.9

     Go to this site to see the numbers for all of the states. Note: all of the Deep South States are, like Alabama, at the lower end of the scale.
     The low numbers are despite the fact that women are a majority of the population.

     The Anzalone-Liszt polling folks compiled some interesting stats on women in politics too, in light of a possible Hillary Clinton Presidential bid in 2016. They write:

Five years after Hillary Clinton conceded that she wasn't able to "shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling," Americans are more ready than ever before for a female president. Ninety percent (90%) of voters from nine battleground states said they would vote for a qualified woman candidate from their political party for president, according to a new Anzalone Liszt Grove survey conducted on behalf of EMILY's List.

When Gallup first posed this question to Americans in 1937, a mere 33% indicated they would vote for a woman president; that number rose to 55% in 1963 and 78% in 1984. In 2006, Gallup found that 61% of adults thought Americans (as opposed to the respondents personally) were ready to elect a woman as president. Now, almost three-quarters (72%) of battleground voters believe it is likely that our next president will be a woman.

At the same time, a record number of women serve in Congress, including 20 senators and 78 congresswomen. Even in this time of unprecedented disgust with Congress (cockroaches, lice and colonoscopies are all viewed more favorably), a majority of battleground voters (51%) believe the women elected to Congress will make a positive difference. On the state level, the number of women serving in their state legislature has more than quintupled since 1971 - now 24% of state legislators in the country are women. There are also currently five female governors and 11 female lieutenant governors. 

Of course, given the fact that women are 51% of the country, there is still a long way to go.  The United States currently ranks 77th in the world in percentage of women in the lower house of a legislative body (17%) - behind Saudi Arabia, China and Sudan. And according to the EMILY's List survey, 81% of voters in battleground states think that it is harder for a woman to be elected president than a man.
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     Despite the 1920 signing of the 20th amendment to the U.S.Constitution, black women in Alabama continued to be denied the right to vote, much less hold elected office.
     35 years after most women were assured the right to vote, a black woman would be the poster child for the Montgomery Bus Boycott, one of the events that led to passage of the Civil Rights Act.
     The recent racial split in the Alabama Democratic party, with Joe Reed going one way and Mark Kennedy another, doesn't bode well for increasing the number of female elected officials of any race in Alabama, who are traditionally Democrats.
    A racial divide can only stymie those efforts.
    




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