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How Can Romney Bridge the Gender Gap? Talk About Education.

By Alyson Klein — April 09, 2012 1 min read

Memo to Gov. Mitt Romney’s team of education advisers: We’ve heard you have a little problem winning over the ladies (by which we mean attracting female voters).

Well, the College Board survey that we wrote about last week may have a partial solution for you: Talk more about education.

According to the survey, which was conducted last month, 75 percent of female voters in swing states ranked education as an issue that’s very important to them, compared to 58 percent of men. And 70 percent of women who identify themselves as independents rank education as an issue that’s extremely important to them. Plus, sixty-five percent of Republicans say education is an extremely important issue. So talking about schools and colleges may be a great way for Romney to appeal to female voters.

“Republican candidates always face a gender gap in national elections,” said Whit Ayres, president, North Star Opinion Research, a public opinion research firm that works with GOP candidates, which conducted the College Board survey along with Hart Research Associates, a Democratic polling organization.

“An emphasis on education is one of the keys for Republican candidates to address a gender gap,” he added.

But there’s a potential hiccup: It’s hard to know what Romney would say, policy-wise. So far on the campaign trail, he hasn’t proposed many new ideas on education, but he has pointed to his (extensive) record on the issue as governor of Massachusetts, which includes championing expanded charter schools, merit pay for teachers, and rigorous standards.

The problem? That’s not very different from what President Barack Obama has done.

The natural Republican go-to policy would be expanded school choice, in the form of vouchers, something the administration has generally steered clear of (even going as far as to ask for no new money for DC vouchers.) But the College Board survey shows that swing-state voters are only sorta interested in school choice. Just 17 percent said it’s a priority, compared to 59 percent who say funding for arts, music, and physical education matters. The biggest school choice fans? Very conservative voters, and racial minorities.

Do you think talking about education will help Romney get more female voters in his camp? What should he say to win them over? Comments section is open!

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