Behind Their Skirts: Clinton and
Mary Christine Banwart and Lynda Lee Kaid
The “gender gap” was one of the most salient concepts of voting behavior in the last decade of the twentieth century. Discussions repeatedly centered on how women had become an important force in the voting equation, candidates were advised to develop appeals specifically for women voters, and female voters were given credit for electing and retaining Bill Clinton as president of the United States. This chapter considers how and why women voters were so important to the presidential electoral landscape between 1992 and 2000.
The “gender gap,” a term coined by former National Organization for Women (NOW) president, Eleanor Smeal, in 1981, gave a label to the phenomenon of differential voting trends among male and female voters (Sigel, 1999). This gender gap was observed in large and small elections for many years, but concern about the “women’s vote” may have reached its peak in the 1990s, a factor some attribute to the aftermath of the HillThomas Hearings, the fateful clash in which Professor Anita Hill accused Supreme Court Justice nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment (Dolan, 1998).
Whatever its antecedents, the fact is that women voters, who now make up the majority of eligible voters in the United States, do make different electoral choices than their male counterparts. In the 1992 presidential