If Trump follows Ted Cruz’s lead and chooses a woman VP candidate, it is unlikely to help him in the general election, says Michael Pisapia, assistant professor of politics at Wake Forest University who studies women and politics. And, even though Cruz chose Carly Fiorina for good strategic reasons – her business credentials, her outsider status and her California address – the selection is unlikely to help him win support from women in the primaries either, he says.
“Trump’s unfavorable ratings with women voters is so high (70% according to a recent Gallup poll) that it is unlikely selecting a woman VP will have a large effect on how most women choose to cast their votes in the fall. This is especially so, given that Hillary Clinton – who is very popular with white and nonwhite women voters, and is viewed by them as being highly qualified for the job – will be on the ballot. Even if Trump selected a qualified, policy-detailed and experienced elected official like Gov. Nikki Haley from S.C., her presence on the ticket is not likely to make a big difference, since most voters cast their vote for the top of the ticket.”
Ultimately, policy positions matter more than gender, Pisapia says. “Women tend to vote more on the basis of the policy positions of the candidates – which are quite different between the Democratic and Republican parties – than on the gender of the person running.” He provides some historical context: “In 2008, with two men on the ticket, Democrats (Obama/Biden) won 56% of women’s votes, while the GOP, John McCain with Sarah Palin on the ticket got only 43%.”
Pisapia won the 2013 Carrie Chapman Catt Prize for scholarship on women and politics.
Looking for comment on other election-related topics, including the youth vote and Latino voters? Visit Wake Forest’s Election 2016 faculty experts guide.