Wendy Davis Is Struggling For The Female Vote In The Race For Texas Governor, And Here's Why
Sen. Wendy Davis, who filibustered her way into the national spotlight and into the gubernatorial race in Texas, can't hold the floor forever. While the many of America's women resonate with the Democratic Party, the Lonestar State is proving that its political leanings are still solidly red. A Public Policy Polling survey released on Tuesday showed Sen. Davis trails Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott by 14 points. Though Abbott's lead isn't so surprising, the fact that women are more likely to side with the male attorney general than the female senator is more troubling.
According to the PPP survey, 49 percent of women favored Abbot, compared to 41 percent of women who preferred Davis. Even more surprising is the finding that men view Davis more favorably than women, with 33 percent of men giving her a favorable rating, and only 32 percent of women agreeing. A stunning 47 percent of Texan women viewed Davis unfavorably.
Davis first shot to fame following her highly publicized filibuster of a bill that would eliminate all save five Texan abortion clinics, and would ban all abortions in the state after 20 weeks. Davis managed to delay the vote on the bill by speaking for 10 hours and 45 minutes before being brought to a stop by procedural requests from Republican opponents. Ultimately, the bill still passed, but Davis had made a name for herself and her pink running shoes.
Following the filibuster, Davis enjoyed a 39 percent favorability rating — seven points higher than it is today. However, even if Davis had kept this rating, she would still be outdone by Abbott, whom the PPP found to be viewed favorably by 40 percent of the electorate.
These numbers don't fare well for Davis, who has just a few more months to bounce back from her double-digit deficit before the November 4 election. However, as a native Texan myself, as saddened as I am by the latest polling results, I can't pretend to be particularly surprised.
While Texas has become less and less conservative over the years, with Houston becoming the most populous city in the U.S. to elect an openly gay mayor, Annise Parker (who married her partner in January), the state is still overwhelmingly Republican. 61 percent of Anglo voters in Texas identify as Republicans, which is 13 points higher than the national average.
Moreover, more Hispanic people in Texas call themselves Republicans than anywhere else in the country. While a University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll found that only 38 percent of suburban women identified as Republicans and 46 percent of women said they were Democrats, whether this will translate into necessary votes for Davis still remains to be seen.
During my last visit home, I had a particularly enlightening conversation with a group of friends, including both men and women, who assured me that very few women in Texas would self-identify as feminists. In fact, every single one of them laughed at me when I asked if they would attach such a label to themselves. One of them, almost angrily, responded, "Hell no." If this is true, then Davis, a woman Salon has called a "feminist superhero," might be in hot water.
However, the throngs and throngs of women who came out to support Davis during her filibuster tell a very different story. There are, I can assure you, feminists in Texas. There are men and women who believe that Texas needs a change from the GOP and Rick Perry's constant wars on education; abortion; and the environment. Texas cannot be proud of its 2011 rating as the second-worst state for women. And while PPP's recent polls do not reflect the widespread presence of women like Wendy Davis, Texas needs them.