Clinton’s Support Among Women Varies With the Level Of Income, Education

By: Wall Street Journal

Support for Candidate Varies With the Level Of Income, Education

Anne Skinner, a 58-year old waitress in Tuxedo Park, N.Y., felt a whiff of solidarity with Hillary Clinton yesterday.

“I was relieved,” she said of Mrs. Clinton’s unexpected primary win in New Hampshire. “I don’t think men understand how hard it is for women, how hard we work and how important we are. I think it’ll be good for us.”

The New York senator and former First Lady remains a polarizing figure for many voters — and still faces a tough election battle against Barack Obama. But her New Hampshire victory, coming on the heels of her third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, resonated with some women who say they find and hear in her a female candidate who, beyond her political positions, is someone with whom they identify.

“Hillary has become, in a weird way, more of a hero to women for being down, counted out, standing up and fighting back,” said Susan Estrich, a political strategist and former campaign manager for Michael Dukakis. “Beforehand, people said she didn’t deserve the nomination because it was being handed to her. Now she’s like us because in the end nothing gets handed to women.”

In New Hampshire, Mrs. Clinton scored best with women who had lower incomes and less education as opposed to highly-paid, educated women. Half of women who earn between $15,000 and $30,000 voted for her, compared to 29% for Mr. Obama. Just 31% of women with post-graduate degrees voted for Mrs. Clinton, however, compared to 43% for Mr. Obama. Mrs. Clinton also did well with women who are single, separated, divorced or widowed, carrying single women by 17 points in New Hampshire while Sen. Obama carried them in Iowa by 13 points.

Polls suggest younger women remain more skeptical of Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy. Elizabeth Cohen, an 18-year-old student at the New School in New York, whose mother is backing Mrs. Clinton, said she supports Mr. Obama because “he’s young, charismatic and hopeful.”

Still, she added, “a woman has never before been in the position of maybe being president and seeing her not go down so fast is good. Whatever happens now, whether she goes on to be the candidate or loses, she’s opening a door for other women.”

Carolyn Strauss, the president of entertainment for HBO in Los Angeles, said she has held ambivalent feelings about Mrs. Clinton over the years, understanding friends’ complaints about “Clinton divisiveness.”

At the same time, she said, “The more she is attacked, the more I’m rooting for her. The attacks, there is a level of vitriol and hate in them that I find profoundly disturbing.” And she said of Mrs. Clinton’s victory, “There is something really thrilling about seeing someone rally like that — having the fortitude to bounce back especially when every one is jumping on her back.”

Some women were particularly struck by Mrs. Clinton’s display of emotion before a group of women voters in a coffee shop Monday — which quickly made the rounds on TV and the Internet.

Deborah Lamberti,a 54-year-old psychoanalyst in New York, said that she wants to like Mrs. Clinton “but there is always the turn-off.” Ms. Lamberti says that Mrs. Clinton’s show of emotion has dominated the conversation among her and her colleagues. “To most of us, it felt like a missed moment,” she says. “It was an opportunity for her to be human and yet it was very inauthentic. And as women, it brought us back not forward. It’s the stereotype of a woman who thinks her boss is going to fire her — and Hillary thought the American people were going to fire her — saying, ‘Okay, it’s time to bring out the emotion.’”

“A lot is being made of Hillary’s show of emotion, and I’m not sure that’s not being overplayed,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.). “At the same time, you have to really guard against trying to be so competent that you forget to be a human being.”

As a woman, Sen. McCaskill said, “when you start in a hole, in how you’re perceived in terms of your competence, you can check too much of your personality and vulnerability at the door in a quest to look, talk and act like a CEO. When I ran for governor, I was so busy knowing the answers to all the questions that I forgot to tell them how important my mom was to me. It’s important that people see you as a multidimensional being and not as a cartoon character. I don’t think that’s the easiest thing in the world for Hillary. If you’re too buttoned up, people can’t relate to you.”

Pat Cook, president of Cook & Co. a boutique executive-recruiting firm in Bronxville, N.Y., said Mrs. Clinton has “been perceived as way too steely, too emotionless, but when she got a little teary she looked normal, like a real person with a soul who cares.”

That makes Mrs. Clinton a good role model for women seeking to advance in business or elsewhere, Ms. Cook said. “I tell them they’ll never be able to keep up a tough persona, and if they try they’ll just become an immediate target of men who want to brand women with the ‘B’ word as soon as they get any power,” she said.

Carol Bellamy, a former top New York City official and executive director of UNICEF, said Mrs. Clinton’s victory reminded her of the advice she gives younger women in politics and business: “You’re a human being. Be comfortable in your decision. Be comfortable in your skin.”

–Monica Langley contributed to this article.

Write to Carol Hymowitz at, Katherine Rosman at and Amy Merrick at

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