Recent presidential elections have focused on millennials, older voters and even soccer moms. In 2016, candidates would be wise to focus on earning the support of “Make It Work” voters.
Who are the Make It Work voters? They’re the vast majority of voters who support an economic agenda that will help families “make it work” in their day-to-day life. This agenda includes equal pay for equal work; raising the minimum wage; quality and affordable child and long-term care; paid sick days and paid family leave; flexible, predictable work schedules, and fair treatment for pregnant workers.
Polling data shows that 60 percent of voters are more likely to vote for candidates who support these types of working family issues. For women, regardless of political party, the numbers are even higher: 84 percent of Democratic women, 57 percent of Independent women, and 53 percent of Republican women.
These issues are popular because the public understands that so-called “women’s economic issues” are core to family stability and, while they do indeed disproportionately impact women, as gender roles shift, men are increasingly impacted as well.
Women are now primary or co-breadwinners in nearly two-thirds of all households with children under 18. That means women’s paychecks are key to their family’s economic stability. When a woman earns 78 cents for every dollar a man earns doing the same job (or 64 cents or 54 cents if they are African American or Hispanic, respectively), her family suffers. When a dad can’t take paternity leave to be home with his newborn child, his family suffers. When affordable child care is unavailable, it strains the entire family. These are family issues that impact millions of Americans every day.
The Make it Work voter gets it. She understands these are pocketbook issues impacting the national economy. She knows increasing the minimum wage and ensuring equal pay for equal work means higher wages that will be spent quickly, stimulating local economies. The Make It Work voter understands that paid family and medical leave, paid sick days, and predictable, flexible work schedules mean more time with family members. This also translates into happier, more productive, more loyal employees. Providing flexible, affordable, quality child care, after school care and early education helps children succeed and allows their parents to work. And every dollar invested in high quality early education has been shown to yield $8 in economic activity.
Equal pay, caregiving, and work and family issues are top of mind with voters, and they are winning in ballot initiatives and legislatures throughout the U.S. In 2014, four paid sick days ballot initiatives won by large margins, and today four states and 20 cities have passed paid sick day policies. In 2014, voters approved minimum wage increases in four states and two cities and legislatures in 11 states and DC approved increases. In 2015 alone, bills addressing equal pay, fair scheduling, child care and fairness for pregnant workers were introduced in, and moved, through legislatures throughout the nation.
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The message is clear for any Presidential candidate: to win in 2016 in Iowa and throughout the nation, you must support policies that help moms, dads, and all families “Make It Work.”
• Julie Kashen is the senior policy adviser for the Make It Work Campaign, a community pushing for policy solutions to make sure hardworking Iowans and all Americans don’t have to choose between being there for family and making a living — and only voting for candidates who do the same. For more information: www.makeitworkcampaign.org. Comments: email@example.com