If They Only Listened to Us

What Women Voters Want Politicians to Hear

If They Only Listened to Us

Soon after the 2004 presidential election, veteran reporter Melinda Henneberger set out across the country to listen to women of all ages and occupations express their strong opinions on the major issues of our time. Over eighteen months she spoke in depth and at length with more than two hundred women in twenty states, from Massachusetts to Arizona and Oregon to Texas. She discovered how unheard women feel, how ignored and disregarded by both major parties and by most politicians.

Listening to women all over the nation -- not only on what are traditionally thought of as "women's issues" but on issues of paramount importance to all Americans -- Henneberger shines a light on what women voters are thinking and how that translates into how and for whom they vote.

The issues that these women focused on were Iraq, abortion, the environment, globalization (and job loss), and corruption (and lack of trust) in the government and the entire electoral process. Again and again these women of all ages, social classes, and regions returned to the matter of authenticity. And they came back again and again to their commonly held feeling that neither party takes any genuine interest in their actual lives, that politicians across the board seem, as a young waitress in Sacramento put it, "to be talking about people who don't exist."

A patient, sensitive, experienced, intelligent listener, Henneberger reports how women feel about the nation's politics and politicians. Her findings will surprise you. Knowing the answers these women give will tell you a great deal about how the next presidential and other elections will be decided.
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 240 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416556596 | 
  • May 2007
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Reading Group Guide

1. Ms. Henneberger writes about the realization she had that she and her closest friends had never discussed politics, and when they do, she's surprised at how divided they are in their views. Why, after all these years, do you think they are finally discussing politics? Do you discuss politics with your close friends? Why or why not? Do you think we are friends with people who hold the same political views as we do? How important are someone's political views to your friendships and why?
2. In talking to women, Ms. Henneberger hoped to find out what drew women to the Democratic Party and what drove them away. She also wanted to know why women who voted for Gore in 2000 voted for Bush in '04. What surprised you most about what the women were thinking and how they made their decisions? What would you say were the reasons why women left the Democratic Party for Bush in '04?
3. Why do you think Bush and the Republicans were more effective in appealing to women voters than the Democrats? What do you think the Democrats need to do to bring women voters back to the party?
4. What issues did you find were most important to the women? Who or what would you say were the strongest influences in changing a woman's political views or her vote?
5. Often women appeared to vote for a candidate for reasons other than that candidate's political views. For instance, Bush was able to get women who cared most about health care see more

About the Author

Melinda Henneberger
Photo Credit:

Melinda Henneberger

Melinda Henneberger is a former reporter for The New York Times and a former contributing editor for Newsweek magazine. She lives with her husband and their two children outside Washington, D.C.