So Long Cowboy Diplomacy. Hello Collaborative Women

A new poll released yesterday by the nonpartisan The White House Project found that likely voters clearly reject the Bush Administration’s message that the nation is safer since 9/11. Candidates, especially women, who promote a more collaborative approach to global security received more than double the support than one advocating the president’s plan which has been derisively termed “cowboy diplomacy”.Forty-nine percent of polled voters rated a message of shared international responsibility as very convincing whether offered by a generic candidate – presumed to be a man – or a candidate identified as a woman. When a pro-administration statement was offered by either a male or female candidate, only 24 percent and 23 percent of voters, respectively, reported it as very convincing.

Colorado’s Fourth Congressional District provides an interesting comparison as it is only one of three U.S. House races in the country pitting a woman incumbent against a woman challenger. Colorado Confidential compares the security messages of Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R) versus Angie Paccione (D) to determine who is most closely aligning to voter preferences according to this poll.

Marilyn Musgrave’s statement on security from her election campaign website:

Top on the list of national priorities is the need to secure our nation and our resources against the threat of terrorism. I will continue to work to strengthen our military, secure our borders, and reform immigration policy. Without safety and security, all that matters: our values, our prosperity, the very American spirit that drives us to excel, will be compromised. This is a time for strong decisions to protect America while protecting individual rights.

Angie Paccione’s website reflects many of the same themes:

Nearly five years after September 11, we remain dangerously unprotected at home. Our ports, borders, and airports remain vulnerable. Osama bin Laden is still launching sophisticated plots that threaten thousands of lives, and the threat of nuclear proliferation grows. We need to stop neglecting homeland security, finally start securing airplane cargo, renew our commitment to defeating Al Qaeda, and work to keep dangerous materials out of the hands of terrorists. I will make sure our government works harder to protect our national security.

Both statements closely mirror the “Full of Range of Strengths” selection used in the poll:

While military strength remains essential, real secruity requires more effective and sustainable approaches to global threats. From terrorism and the spread of nuclear weapons, to diseases likes SARS and criminal drug trafficking, force alone is insufficient. It is essential to invest in intelligence, economic development, educational, economic, and diplomatic efforts to address root causes and contain these challenges. Real security focuses the full range of America’s strengths to prevent emerging threats from becoming crises.

According to the study, this response was sixth of the eight ranked statements by polled subjects across the country. Thirty-six percent of male voters rated it as very convincing coming from a woman candidate whereas 32 percent of females did. The 13-17 point difference for men and women voters between the Strengths message compared with the top rated theme of International Collaboration indicates that both candidates are out of sync with likely voters at the national scope.

Contrasting the responses of only those subjects from the Mountain West, strong messages framed by diplomacy and domestic security were nearly tied at 60 percent and 59 percent as very convincing. The Strengths message was again ranked sixth by a wide margin. Musgrave and Paccione continue to appear to be making statements about security that are not aligned with regional voter concerns.

“It’s no coincidence that the shift toward cooperative leadership is aligned with the trust in women candidates on national security,” said Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research Partners, a national public opinion and political strategy research firm that conducted this survey. Lake mentioned that women candidates gain more credibility with voters on other issues if they also address national security.

The White House Project founder and president Marie Wilson said in a conference call to announce the poll:

Women have actually had to so overemphasize in the past that they are not afraid of the military. Traditional women candidates have felt like they so have to emphasize their toughness. Women have to prove they are ‘man enough’ for the job.

There is a chance here for a new security agenda to begin and women are going to be able to carry this agenda.

Poll methodology: Telephone poll with 1,000 registered likely voters ages 18 or older nationwide. The survey was conducted between August 27 and September 5, 2006. The margin of error for the entire survey is +/- 3.1%

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