Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Women Voters Could Decide Presidential Election, But Don’t Vote As A Bloc

Matt York
In the last nine presidential elections, women have voted in higher numbers than men.

On today's program: Women cast ballots at higher rates than men, but don’t vote in a bloc; workers at the Allegheny County Elections Division warehouse will begin pre-canvassing mail-in ballots this morning; and the Neighborhood Resilience Project is trying to recruit African American volunteers for COVID-19 vaccine trials.

CMU professor: Women don’t vote in a bloc, vary politically
(00:00 — 6:32)

Women voters have cast ballots at a higher rate than men in elections dating back to 1984, according to the Pew Research Center. This means, if unified, women voters could determine the outcome of the presidential election, but they don’t vote in a bloc, says Carnegie Mellon University professorLisa Tetrault, who specializes in the history of gender, race, and American democracy. She notes there are important splits along demographic lines, like race.

“You can’t talk about ‘the women’s vote’ as something that will all vote in one direction because they do not,” she says.

The idea that women do vote in a bloc has been around since the ratification of the 19th Amendment, when Tetrault says much of the argument for allowing women to vote was “enfranchise us—which largely meant white women—but enfranchise us and we will vote in this direction.” She says despite this persuasive tactic, “women have always been as politically divided and as different from each other as men are. So there’s no ‘male vote’ in the United States, so I’m not sure why we would think that there would be a ‘female vote.’”

There are patterns in party affiliation among women. White women are split evenly among Democrats and Republicans, while African American women overwhelmingly vote for Democrats. A majority of Hispanic and Latina women and Asian American women also tend to vote for Democrats.

Tetrault says as the demographic profile of the United States shifts from majority white to majority non-white, there could be long-term implications for “the health of the Republican and Democratic Party.”

Allegheny County Elections Division prepares for Election Day
(6:35 — 11:12)

This morning, workers at the Allegheny County Elections Division warehouse on the North Side began pre-canvassing mail-in and absentee ballots and preparing them to be scanned and counted. Just like in any other election, ballot tabulation will not begin until the polls close at 8 p.m.


Information from in-person polling locations will also be tabulated beginning at 8 p.m., saysJoanne Foerster, director of performance and analytics for Allegheny County’sElections Division.

All 1,323 polling places in Allegheny County will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Find a full list of in-person polling locations in Pennsylvania here

Including diverse participants in COVID-19 vaccine trials is “critical,” says Neighborhood Resilience Project CEO
(11:15 — 18:00)

Black people comprise about 13 percent of the U.S. population, but only make up about three percent of those participating in four large scale COVID-19 vaccine trials currently underway. Rev. Paul Abernathy, CEO of theNeighborhood Resilience Project, is trying to recruit more volunteers for the vaccine trials.


He says it is “critical” for trials to have diverse participants. “People need to see people who reflect who they are spreading the message about these vaccines.”

“There’s been a tremendous history of distrust in the Black community, especially as it relates to trials of different sorts. And of course this goes back to Tuskegee [trials when Black men with syphilis were not given penicillin] and other experiments that were done, clinical abuses among African Americans rooted in deep institutional racism,” he says. “So the concerns are real, the experiences are certainly real.”

Abernathy says the Neighborhood Resilience Project is using statistics about how the coronavirus has disproportionately impacted African American communities to encourage people’s interest in participating in the trials.

“We really have to understand that we have an obligation to really help these communities of color combat the spread of COVID-19, and vaccination is going to be one of those key ways in which we really help save lives,” he says.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago.
Marylee is the editor/producer of The Confluence, the daily public affairs show on WESA. She got her start in journalism at The Daily Reveille and KLSU while attending Louisiana State University. She took her passion for audio journalism to UC Berkeley's graduate program and worked in public radio at WPR in Madison, WI, and WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.
Julia Zenkevich is a general assignment reporter for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at
Recent Episodes Of The Confluence