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Why female voters could be key to winning the election

Female voters may be key on Election Day. Harvard University Lecturer in Department of Government Sparsha Saha joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss.

Video Transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: But I want to drill in on a key voting block here that we saw play an important role back in 2016 and no doubt very much the same story here in terms of women voters and how they might influence the winner this time around. And for more on that, we're joined by our next guest. Sparsha Saha is a Harvard University Lecturer in the Department of Government, and she joins us now.

And Sparsha, I mean, when we look back at what happened in 2016, obviously it's going to be a tough comparison since we both have men here in terms of the presidential candidates here. But what are you seeing play out when it comes to gender politics at the top level this time around?

SPARSHA SAHA: Sure. Hi, Zack, and thanks so much for having me on. Looking at sort of the patterns among voters, there's some consistency and some change that we're seeing. So very much Trump still has a bit of a gender-gap issue where women voters on average are more likely to vote Democrat.

However, what is particularly interesting is that we're seeing Joe Biden close the gap among male voters. So that has been a change, and this is from last month's Pew. So we'll see sort of how this pans out with some of the data coming in after today. But it does seem to be the case that Biden is less off-putting to male voters, both Black and white male voters. He's seen quite a bump. I think on average it's about an eight-- he's doing eight points better among men than Hillary Clinton did.

This is something that there is some support for this in literature. My own work with Ana-- Dr. Ana Catalano Weeks of the University of Bath-- we published a paper recently that did see some support for, you know, men being a little bit less supportive than women of a female candidate. So we think maybe that has part of an explanation in terms of explaining sort of why Hillary Clinton was doing a little bit worse with men than Joe Biden. And it does seem like Kamala Harris isn't sort of having that same effect, that male voters are not being off put when it comes to sort of voting for Joe.

AKIKO FUJITA: Although I guess it is worth noting that she's not at the top of the ticket, which is the difference this time around between Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden's candidacy.

Let's talk about Kamala Harris's impact, though, because the thinking had been initially within the Biden camp that, number one, they would pick a female candidate. He made it very clear-- a female running mate, I should say. How has that contributed to getting more women on board? And I suppose you have to look at a number of factors just given how so many women have sort of kind of moved away from the Trump camp during his presidency.

SPARSHA SAHA: Yeah, it's going to be really hard to kind of disentangle the effects, right? Is it that, you know, we're seeing this kind of-- certainly Joe Biden does have even a little bit more of a bump among female voters than in 2016. So is that because of Trump or is it because of Kamala? I'm not sure we know the answer to that yet. I'm sure that scholars will be kind of trying to figure that out. My best guess is that it's a little bit of both, and I think that the Democratic Party was very wise to kind of think about, you know, sort of jumping on that bandwagon of this gender gap that Trump seems to be having.

Republicans have become a little bit more savvy about this, giving Republican women of color more support this time. And actually this has been a record year for Republican women running. They didn't do so well out coming out of the primaries. There were 227 Republican female candidates. Only 92 I believe emerged victorious, which is a lower rate than the Democratic female candidates. But nonetheless, across the board I think there's been more support on the right for some women candidates, which is good.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, that might be the most overlooked piece of this too when we think about it, the female candidates out there for the Republican Party, but they might be hurt by President Trump's trailing there with female voters. Talk to me about that dynamic when we think about, you know, the top of the ballot helping out or not helping out, in this case, when women are running.

SPARSHA SAHA: Yeah, I think that certainly on the left women candidates have been able to sort of monopolize on some of the rhetoric that's coming out from the left about gender dynamics in the election. But on the right, women candidates have a little bit more of a balancing act to play, but I think that they've done a really nice job of sort of, you know, not sticking as closely to sort of the administration and really carving out their own space. There are a lot of women of color on the right who are running, which has been great.

So I think that, you know, women candidates oftentimes have to think about many different factors. On the right, it's probably even more the case that they're thinking about these factors. But this kind of rise of the 360-degree female candidate, right, who isn't afraid to get into the personal motivations for why she's running and what is important in her community has also translated to women on the right, and I see a lot more of sort of this leaning into the community at sort at the local level.

And I think that's been an effective strategy for them to take. Well see how this pans out today for the female candidates on the right. The solution for sort of thinking about gender parity is both sides. We're not going to do it if it's just one side. And so this is something that I find encouraging.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, that, and also we'll see how the election shakes out in terms of that women vote as well. But Sparsha Saha, Harvard University lecturer in the Department of Government, appreciate you coming on to chat that.