The Feminist Factor: More than Half of 2012 Women Voters Identify As Feminists

3002906359_2e446fdf95A newly released voter poll finds that feminists, not just women in general, were key to the 2012 election results. Fully 55 percent of women voters self-identified as feminists–an increase of 9 percent since the last presidential election in 2008.

And if those polled were given a follow-up question that included a definition of feminism, the percentage of those declaring themselves feminists or strong feminists rose to a total of 68 percent!

Political pundits declared the day after the presidential election that women voters had decided the outcome in favor of reelecting Obama, but that was just part of the story. The polling, conducted by Lake Research Partners for Ms. magazine, the Feminist Majority Foundation and Communications Consortium Media Center (CCMC), documents the existence of a strong “Feminist Factor.”

We’ve long talked about the gender gap–the measurable difference between how men and women vote–but now, says Feminist Majority president and Ms. publisher Eleanor Smeal, “As we move forward after the elections of 2012, it’s time to acknowledge that it wasn’t just women who made a critical different in reelecting President Barack Obama, but feminists. It’s time to add another metric beyond the gender gap to our post-election analysis: the Feminist Factor.” We define that as the proportion of voters who self-identify as feminists across various demographics–race, age, religion, region of the country and more–and their subsequent voting behavior.

The following chart shows the result of our polling on feminist identification among women voters since 2006:

Feminist Factor 2006-2012

Furthermore, the Feminist Factor is especially strong among women in the emerging and expanding electorate of young women under 30 and among African-American women and Latinas:

Feminist Factor New Electorate

For more on the Feminist Factor, read Eleanor Smeal’s lengthier article analyzing it in the current issue of Ms. magazine–available now digitally for your iPad, iPhone or Android devices! Sign up for the free app and receive subscription information. Join the Ms. community today and receive our 40th anniversary issue, our current issue and the next three issues of Ms.–five for the price of four!



  1. Kathy Ruopp says:

    I’d like to know how many men identified as feminist, before and after the definition.

  2. It would have been interesting to poll men who identify as feminists as well, and see if if there was a corresponding tendency to vote Democrat. That would make the finding of a Feminist Gap as opposed to a Gender Gap even more compelling.

  3. Starless and Bible Black says:

    This poll exemplifies ‘cherry picked’ statistics. The data collected was conducted by feminist groups which means the people surveyed were carefully picked for the sake of achieving specific results. All special interest groups do this. For example, a Catholic organization will poll their constituents about abortion and find that 90% of people are against it.

  4. Thinking Liberal says:

    This poll… is less than impressive.

    In order to make the objective and factual statement, “feminists, not just women in general, were key to the 2012 election results,” there must be proof that the voting pattern of feminists directly led to the election of President Obama. There is no correlation between the number of female feminists who voted and the way they voted. Furthermore, excluding half the population (men) from your poll doesn’t give the impression that the poll is entirely accurate or relevant. After all, if we assume, based on the presented data, that 55% of women self-identify as feminists, and 51% of the American population in female, that means that 28% of voters are feminist, leaving 72% of the population either non-feminist, anti-feminist, or unsure. 28% is hardly enough to sway an election, even if you assume that all feminists voted for the same candidate.

    On top of that, there is no evidence based on the poll to suggest that feminists all voted for Obama, or that their identification as feminists affected their belief in other political issues such as the economy and social services.

    @ Kathy and Alice — Agreed, this would be useful and relevant information.

    • Sharon Presley says:

      Why do you assume all feminists would vote for Obama? I know a bunch of feminists who didn’t. A few voted GOP but not because of their atrocious stand on abortion. Politics are not that simple nor is feminism. I’ve been a feminist for 50+ years and I voted for Gary Johnson. A recent poll of Millennials showed just how disenchanted they are with politics as usual. A lot of young people are scratching their heads trying to figure out the way out of the current political morass.

  5. What the heck is a “strong Feminist?!” If Feminism basically means EQUALITY, how can being a “Strong Feminist” and “just a Feminist” exist? It’s like asking someone if they believe in Human Rights or not (It should be one of those things in life, “The More The Merrier,” kind of thing.), it’s pretty black and white. Unless, the poll was ‘hinting’ at the ‘one word’ EVERYONE is AFRAID to be: “Feminazi.” Which I do not suggest ANY Feminist poll do such ‘hinting’ as a lot of people are confused enough with the term, ‘Feminist.’

    • And I’m pretty sure “Not a Feminist” & “Anti-Feminist” are the same thing, if the ‘Feminist’ definition has any meaning at all (Women’s Right’s.).

  6. How is it both of the polls for 2012 don’t come out to 100% (101% in both) ? And with the 3rd set “with the definition of feminism” they all come out to be more than 100% (104%,123%,115%, and 101% respectively) ? Given that everybody could only pick one answer this should be impossible. If you leave out choices as was done on the last poll this means nobody chose them in this situation. Not only that but more people voted than was accounted for. Not to discredit this poll but something is really off when you can get 123%.

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