Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=209905
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Agnes Radomski/MEDILL

Diana Carter questions Joe Walsh about an ad she recieved in the mail that adresses healthcare. 



Agnes Radomski/MEDILL

Diana Carter questions Walsh about his stance on abortion at a town hall meeting in Elgin.


Men, women split on what issues are most important in 2012

by Agnes Radomski
Nov 01, 2012


Deborah DeChinistso is beyond the age of having an abortion, but as a registered nurse, she believes it is an important issue.

“But other people, if they choose that … then they should absolutely have the right -- and Roe vs. Wade made that very, very clear,” she said, referring to the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

DeChinistso was one of many who attended a town hall meeting held by U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Fox Lake) in Elgin, shortly after his pro-life without exception stance went viral. He has since backtracked, conceding that it’s acceptable to save the life of the mother, although he did not make an exception in cases of rape.

Walsh is in the tight 8th Congressional District race against Democrat Tammy Duckworth that has gained national attention.

Diana Carter, 62, a registered counselor from Elgin, has assisted women in their decision- making process when considering abortion.

“I came here because I wanted to see if I could get him to own his inconsistency, and unfortunately I didn’t,” she said as she chuckled. “He did not get the inconsistency I was trying to point out -- that if you don’t want the government involved in healthcare -- then you don’t want the government involved -- in healthcare!”

Carter, once a supporter of Walsh, said he lost her vote.

But not everyone felt the same way. Carter’s husband, Brian, a semi-retired business development specialist, said he generally supports Walsh. “Given the economic environment in which we find ourselves, we need more politicians who are willing to be serious about that economic cliff, if you will,” he said.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean I agree with everything Joe stands for, but on the core issues, the economic issues affecting this country, I believe he’s right on,” he said.

Jobs and the economy remain the top two priorities among registered voters, just as they were in 2008, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center released in September. However, there have been some notable changes among voter’s perceptions on other issues. Energy policy, immigration, and terrorism are a few that were top priorities for voters back in 2008 but no longer rank high on the list this year.

Another notable difference lies in what men and women rank highest in importance. Abortion and healthcare were issues that 54 percent of women ranked as very important to their voting decision, while just 36 percent of men felt the same way.

A Gallup poll taken in swing states in October among registered voters found similar results, with men rating jobs as the most important issue in the 2012 election and women rating abortion as most important, followed by jobs.

However, Niki Fritz, public relations chair of the Chicago chapter for the National Organization for Women, thinks the top two issues for men and women aren’t isolated.

“I think one of the big misconceptions in this election is that social issues, such as reproductive rights and abortion, are not economic issues,” she said. “Everyone is affected by the addition of another family member -- for the increase in size of healthcare, of housing costs, of education. These are big economic issues.”

John Brehm, political science professor at the University of Chicago, said social issues aren’t just a moral or symbolic question.

“Women’s rights issues are not just matters of being able to obtain birth control, being able to obtain legal abortions, or being able to obtain childcare,” he said. “Those are potent and heavily symbolic issues that carry a lot of weight for a lot of voters, but they are also economic issues that carry a lot of weight for other voters.”

“Having to be out of the workforce because you’re raising a child that you can’t afford to raise is a clear economic question,” he said.

Walsh has always held a pro-life stance since he has been in Congress said Paul Green, director of the Institute for Politics and Arthur Rubloff Professor of Policy Studies at Roosevelt University.

“You can be pro-life and win in that district, but it’s very difficult to be pro-life and sort of poo-poo the whole rape issue, which gives most people the chills,” he said. “The economy is the number one issue. Very few people, in fact many people running for Congress, don’t understand all the nuances of the economy and the problems we have with our debt … but you can understand when someone says pro-life with no exception, that includes rape,” he said.

Mickey Walker, who dubbed Walsh a fighter, was also in attendance at the town hall meeting in Elgin.

“A lot of people focus on the issues that, these guys aren’t going to have anything to do with it,” he said.

“People don’t have enough money to buy food, they’re losing their houses,” he said. “Those are the things we need to focus on first. While the other issues are big, they kind of take a backseat to the bigger problems that everybody is having right now.”