In this week’s edition of “Problematic Women,” Jessica Anderson, vice president of Heritage Action for America, joins us to discuss a recent survey commissioned by the organization that reveals the top issues that concern women, whether their opinions really differ from those of men, and how women feel about President Donald Trump’s performance—and personality—thus far. Specifically, we discuss what the results tell us about suburban women and their take on the so-called soft issues, such as immigration and abortion. Listen to the podcast, or read the lightly edited transcript below.
In this week’s edition of “Problematic Women,” we also discuss:
—Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s so-called environmentally conscious decision to give son Archie only one other sibling.
—New data released by the U.S. Soccer Federation showing that despite generating a net loss over the past 11 years, female players actually earned more than the male players.
—A viral social media post shaming millennials for going to Disney World alone.
—The estranged wife of Dubai’s ruler, who filed for a marriage protection order and a non-molestation order to protect her two children from imprisonment in Dubai.
Lauren Evans: Welcome, Jessica. We have you on the program today because Heritage Action released a really great opinion poll that provides a targeted look at what animates voters in strategic areas across the country.
So Jessica, to start us off, can you tell us a little bit about the survey and who these targeted voters and areas are?
Jessica Anderson: Absolutely. First, thanks for having me. It’s awesome to be with you guys today. I totally consider myself a problematic woman and so I’m amongst good company.
What we did with these polls is we spent the last four months digging in and trying to understand what’s animating voters across the country with the goal of unifying Republican voters while still drawing in independents, moderate Dems, suburbanites, suburban women, and working-class swing voters—all with the goal that they would have a cohesive coalition that could come together to build out a strong conservative policy platform.
And through this polling that we’ve just released, we found that there really are four distinct areas that tie all of these voters together. And we can talk about them a little bit today. But just briefly, they’re immigration, culture, the workforce, and economic fairness.
Evans: Just to start us off, what are some of the most surprising things from the polling data?
Anderson: One of the things that jumped out to me the most, and I guess some of this was intuitive, but just how incredibly prolific immigration continues to be as an issue, both for traditional Republicans, independents, suburbanites, moderate Dems, and working class. And the study around immigration is not necessarily what you would think.
When you look at President Trump’s rhetoric, for instance, on immigration, it’s all “Build the wall.” It’s all focused on the national security side, the MS-13 gangs.
What blew up the charts on these polls is that people, in particular suburban women, were really concerned with the overuse of social services by illegal immigrants. So that tells me that there’s a narrative that’s going on in this country on the illegal immigration side that’s not just [about] safety and security, but it’s also the every day and how illegal immigrants, frankly, just impact our daily life. So that was one.
The second thing that really jumped out to me was the prevalence of higher ed. And what I mean by that is higher ed really is kind of a No. 1 enemy right now … You’ve got the antidotes of the college admission scandals, you have higher tuition fees, you’ve got student loans, you’ve got parents that are freaking out that their kids have good SAT scores so they can get into college, and they’re finding that it’s just not worth it.
This poll in particular struck me: 69% of suburban women found that higher education was not worth the price today, 69%, which is really high, and I think a sad commentary to just how far our education system has gone off the rails from actually providing true American civics.
Evans: When you’re looking at this poll data, is there a big difference between the answers that the woman provide and the men provide?
Anderson: Yes and no. It depends on what the issue is. Surprisingly, men and women don’t have that big of differences. But the reality is that men care about different issues more than women care about other issues.
So, when women are looking particularly at the open set of policy issues that they can respond to, they really zoom in and resonate with what I would call quality of life issues.
These include things like health care, education, security, work-life balance, paid family leave … and then how they think about abortion and social issues, specifically on the transgender stuff. That resonates very, very deeply and fiercely with women versus men that are more drawn toward the economic side and the fiscal side and the regulatory side.
Now, the differences aren’t [so] huge that everyone should drop what they’re doing and craft policies around just men or women. That’s not what I’m saying.
But there are specific nuances when you look at some of these suburban districts in particular that we should just, frankly, be aware of. And at the end of the day, we’ve always said that all issues are women’s issues. And I think that’s really true in this case as well.
Evans: There’s this really interesting article that came out today in AP titled “Suburban Women Recoil as Trump Dives into Racial Politics.” And in this article they talked about a woman named Carol Evans, no relation to me, that despite thinking President Trump has done some good things for our country, she says that she doesn’t support him.
Basically, what this article says is that it doesn’t really matter what Trump does or what he stands for, women will just dislike him for his language and the way that he speaks. Did you find this in the poll?
Anderson: We actually did. It’s really interesting because there’s this unique dichotomy that’s happening between Trump the person and then Trump the policy leader.
What I think this AP article is trying to get at is, if you just focus on Trump the person, the bottom falls out and it falls out in particular among women. But that’s not something that we’re not able to overcome.
That’s where I think the AP article just totally missed out on a really critical part of going into 2020, which is that so many candidates are going to try to say, “Look, I want to run on the policy. I wanna run on the policies that the Trump administration has promoted, has achieved, has accomplished, at maybe things that are even in working draft phases.”
But the point is that there are enough policies from the Trump administration and on the Trump campaign side to get people excited about it. And that’s where I think there’s a real opportunity to make this not about his personality but instead to make it about his policies.
But you’re right, women have a much more pessimistic view of Trump’s economy than men do. And this pessimistic view can be taken at face value as an opinion of the economy. Or it’s an indicator, like this article is just suggesting, of Trump’s unpopularity among Democrat and independent battleground district women. Both of those things are mixing together in a blender to influence the response.
But it’s not overcomeable. Is that a word?
Evans: We’ll go with it.
Anderson: It’s not something we can’t overcome because policy can run a campaign and policy can animate voters and our survey proves that there is a path forward on policy, specifically around those four areas.
Evans: Looking into some of these “softer issues,” these moral issues, where do women stand on abortion or the transgender issue?
Anderson: The transgender issue really popped out on this survey in particular when we looked at swing states and swing districts.
The second and third surveys looked at five state districts or swing states and then 15 battleground districts. When we were looking at that, what we found was that 51% of suburban women do not think biological males should be permitted to play in high school sports. So you’ve got an over 50% contingency. Then when you … add in traditional Republicans, that number is closer to 80%.
So when we look at the cultural issues, there is something to look at there because women are on the front lines of the culture fight. Maybe they’re home with their kids, they’re reading their kids’ textbooks, they’re going to their PTA and school meetings. They’re seeing firsthand how the left’s extremism around culture is playing out within schools and in particular now on the sports field.
So when you look at those social issues, you see that women are animated by this, they do care. …
Going back to your previous question, if the Trump administration were to take this on, he’d have a real opportunity to entice those voters that might have been turned off on some of his personality politics and really look at the policy and how he’s championing the woman, he’s championing in the traditional family. And that’s something to be celebrated.
Evans: How do we combat that narrative? You think about the first Women’s March, the largest one had been just a few days after Trump’s inauguration. It seems like the women’s movement in society is synonymous with being anti-Trump. How do we reach those women and show them that conservative policies are really what’s best?
Anderson: I think we have to reach them with the policies that we know that they care about.
So when you look at this survey, we know that suburban women care the most about immigration. We asked an open-ended question of, “What do you care the most about? Fill in the blank.” Twenty-oner percent was immigration, 15% was the second one only for Donald Trump. He’s not even in a policy issue, so that just tells you how much he resonates. But we know that they care about immigration, we know that they care about education, we know that they care about moral issues.
If you can create campaigns and policy platforms around the bedrock of those quality-of-life issues, I would put health care in there as well, then we’re actually starting to talk to suburban women in a way that they care about.
We ran ads on the tax cuts, the … Tax Cuts and Jobs Act from two years ago, at Heritage Action. And that was an incredible bill. A lot for us to be incredibly proud of. Every single working family saved money and the benefits are paramount. But the tax element didn’t connect with the suburban woman.
The disconnect—it’s not that they didn’t value that. It’s not that they didn’t see the money. They just overvalue the immigration and the education and the health care pieces and the moral and cultural side.
So for us to do right by these voters, we need to actually talk to them with the issues that they care about. And all of this is backed by conservative principle, and that’s the best part of working at an organization like Heritage, is that we know the roadmap, we know the pathway forward, and now we just need to connect it in the right places across the country.
Evans: You’ve been talking a lot about suburban women. Can you first talk about why you targeted suburban women and why their voice is important? And then also how do women vary in their opinions between suburban, urban, and rural?
Anderson: Women outnumber and outvote men across the country. They did this in 2016 when many of them came on board for Trump. They did this in ’18 when many of them did not support Republican House seats because of the coattails of the president. They actually took a negative vote for the reason of chastising him.
We anticipate that this group of voters, particularly suburban women, will greatly influence 2020.
The survey itself, though, was a holistic view. So not only do we look at suburban women, we looked at suburban men, we looked at working class, we looked at independents, we looked at moderate Dems, and, frankly, at urban voters.
I think there’s a really interesting meme that’s out there right now, which I think is patently false, but a lot of people are saying, “OK, the Republican Party is now moving into being the party of the working class and the suburban voter. Well, let’s just swap that with Democrats who are now becoming the party of the urban voter.”
To that, I would say that that’s a fallacy. That’s a false choice. Conservative principles apply to everyone, regardless of where you live, whether you’re in an urban city like Detroit and you look at our conservative housing policies, or you’re in a suburban area like Fairfax County or Mecklenburg County. These are counties that really, truly care about the same issues.
So it’s important not to, in polling, not to slice and dice everyone too much, where then you just lose the macropicture, which is that all Americans want a better life. They want freedom, they want opportunity, they want the chance to flourish. And they can do that with conservative policies.
Looking backward a little bit, why is it important that we study the way women vote and study what really motivates them and how did they shape the 2016 and 2018 elections?
So in ’16, suburban women really showed up for Trump. And it was interesting because I think they showed up not just for him, but they showed up against Hillary [Clinton]. And that’s an important differentiating faction because they were casting a no vote against Hillary Clinton. And that was significant.
They may have had the same attitudes toward President Trump the person then, but it was a clear difference between who they were voting for on the top of the ticket.
In ’18, like I said, president wasn’t at the top of the ticket. That was a down-ballot midterm race. So you were looking at Senate and House seats, couple governors’ seats, governors’ races.
In that case, you saw women stay home. They just flat out stayed home or they switched parties. That’s where I think we’ve got our work cut out for us to make this election in 2020 about the policies and about how conservative principles can override any feelings over the personalities of one individual or another.
So it’s an important group. It’s one not to take for granted, but it’s not one that’s lost. And it’s certainly not one that we should just forget about.
Evans: Are women … likely to be swing voters since they do change?
Anderson: Women are a big chunk of the swing voter group for sure. … Women outnumber and outvote men in general, that’s what you’re going to find. And they’re also less inclined to vote just because of if they have an R or D next to their name.
There’s a huge study that shows that they can swing back and forth. And part of that is just the makeup of how a woman thinks versus how a man might think.
Evans: How can we use this knowledge in our day-to-day when we’re talking to our friends to really be reaching them?
Anderson: I think, first and foremost, is just reminding folks that the personality of whomever doesn’t need to overtake the policy. And it’s challenging, right? And I get that. But at the end of the day, what we care about is, and what I think our friends and family care about, is advancing conservative policy and advancing these principles that we know will work and, frankly, that we know are needed today.
Not just on these policy fights, based on the issues that we’ve described today, but on the larger macro of going against the extremism of the liberal left that we see right now and their swan dive into the extremism of socialism.
So if you’re talking to a friend or a family member, do you want America to become a socialist country? Chances are people are going to say no.
And in that case, then you have a chance to unpack these issues and say, “Well, we too are fighting against socialism.”
Liberals right now, in every single one of these policy issues, are advancing a socialist agenda. Whether it’s free health care for all, health care for illegal immigrants, free college tuition, forgiving everyone’s student loans. Whatever it is, it’s trillions and trillions of dollars that just adds up. That is not the path that America should take. And everyday average Americans understand that.
Evans: On college campuses and with young people, I feel like they almost have to come out as conservatives and it’s like a secret you have to hold. Are you saying that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel that even though you might feel alone, a lot of your friends probably aren’t as extreme as you think they might be?
Anderson: Well, it depends on where you’re coming from. … I will say that one of the great things about Heritage Action is that we have an activist footprint in every single congressional district across the country. That includes Nancy Pelosi’s district just as much as it includes Mark Meadows’.
So, we think that conservatives may make up a silent majority in some places of the country and that doesn’t have to be like that. If you speak up, you can find another, you can find another, you can find another.
And great groups like Heritage Action can help you to do that. Especially when you’re coming off of the college campus, you’re getting involved in the workforce, you’re being told all these lies from everything from “Sex in the City” to Glamour magazine to rediscovering “Friends” from the ’90s, which is hilarious.
I grew up with that show and 20 year olds are asking me if [I’ve] ever heard of it. I’m like, “What?” So you know, as you rediscover “Friends” and you’re told this lifestyle is OK, the reality is is that there are conservative women everywhere and they’re looking for a friend and they’re looking for someone to join forces with and to have a life that promotes freedom and opportunity, but opportunity for all.
Evans: Before I let you go, we ask every one of our guests, do you consider yourself a feminist, and why or why not?
Anderson: I consider myself a family feminist, and I think that the disclaimer is really important. Unfortunately, the left has commandeered the term “feminism” and made it to basically be synonymous with being pro-choice or pro-life.
I think that’s a mistake because feminism and the issues around women are so much broader than just health care and they’re so much broader than just this binary choice between being pro-life or pro-choice.
So when I think of myself as a family feminist, that means I’m pro-the traditional nuclear family. I am pro-protecting the most vulnerable, which includes being pro-life, but I’m also a pro-women having a healthy work-life balance. I have a 6-year-old, I have a second little baby on the way, I’m working and we’re making it work.
So I think you can be a family feminist and survive in today’s culture.
Evans: I love that so much.
Jess, before we let you go, if people want to get more information about the survey, can you tell them where they can find it?
Anderson: Super easy. HeritageAction.com, it’s the first thing you’re going to see on our website.
You can click through, whether you want to look at 300-plus pages of cross tabs and be up all night—and if you do, call me and I’ll nerd out with you—or if you want to [see] cheat sheets, [you] can just look through the first 30 pages or so of our graphics that really detail these polls and, hopefully, it’ll be helpful to everyone as we grapple with these important issues heading into 2020.
Evans: Awesome. Thank you so much for joining us.
Anderson: Thank you so much for having me.
Source material can be found at this site.