The women weren’t immune to Trump’s arguments on immigration. In the groups, many agreed with him on two fronts: that there is a crisis at the southern border, and that undocumented immigrants represent an economic threat because they are “willing to work for peanuts,” as one woman put it.
But among the women, those areas of agreement were mitigated by other concerns about Trump, including their belief that, on immigration, “his rhetoric … made him sound ‘racist’ or ‘ignorant,’” as the report notes. “There were a lot of mentions of intolerance in reaction to what he was saying and doing,” Greenberg says.
Adam Serwer: Trump tells America what kind of nationalist he is
That recoil represents one component of the broader unease these women expressed about the level of acrimony and division under Trump. While the men almost entirely found ways to justify Trump, the women expressed much more discomfort about the way he talks about race-related issues, his overall style, and whether he respects women. “The women are not making excuses for him,” says Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, which commissioned the research. “What you’re seeing is a big difference between decency and bombast. And these women are saying, ‘This guy is bombastic; he’s disrespectful.’”
Women were also more likely than men in the groups to say that Trump’s economy hasn’t delivered improvement for their family, and they were more likely to cite rising health-care and prescription-drug costs as an especially acute squeeze. In both parties, strategists I’ve talked with agree that Democratic promises to defend the Affordable Care Act, particularly its provisions safeguarding patients with preexisting conditions, were crucial to the party’s recovery among blue-collar white women in 2018.
Summarizing these views, Greenberg concluded that while working-class white men look very tough for Democrats to win over next year, the party has an opportunity to consolidate its modest 2018 revival among their female counterparts. For many of the women who backed Trump in 2016, he wrote, the president now “is seen as ego-centric and divisive and failing to deliver for working people, particularly the women and particularly on health care.”
Even with these openings, however, Democrats still face significant obstacles. This week’s NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll suggests that non-college-educated white women are essentially just as hostile as working-class white men to vanguard liberal ideas that have emerged in the 2020 Democratic presidential race. Those issues include a single-payer health-care plan that would eliminate private insurance, allowing undocumented immigrants access to any federally funded health-care plan, and decriminalizing unauthorized crossing of the U.S. border. Additionally, while recent polls by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute show that these women don’t quite match the hostility of the men in their cohort to a wide array of demographic and social changes in the country, a majority agree on several ideas: that the growing number of immigrants threatens traditional American values, that the U.S. way of life must be protected against foreign influence, and that white people face as much discrimination as black people. All of those attitudes correlate with support for Trump.