In the final and third debate of the 2016 presidential election, when Donald Trump was asked about recent allegations stating he has groped and sexually assaulted women, Trump responded with, “Nobody has more respect for women than I do.”

Women, however, seem to largely disagree. In a recent FiveThirtyEight article, data from 12 different polls was aggregated to analyze the gender gap in voting this election cycle.

According to the analysis, Hillary Clinton is, on average, beating Trump by 15 percentage points among women voters. The article goes on to assess what the electorate map would look like if only women voted, proposing Clinton would win 458 electoral college votes, while Trump would win 80.

As early as April 2016, Trump had as high as a 70 percent unfavorability rating among women. And, in the 2012 election between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, approximately 53 percent of voters were women, meaning women are the majority of voters.

This issue of women turnout is one Professor Robert Koulish, Ph.D, director of MLaw Programs, an undergraduate law program, noted as an ongoing issue for the Republican party and for the Trump campaign.

“In terms of the GOP’s view on women, it’s at a crossroads if it wants to be a strong contender at the national level for the next generation,” he said.

Koulish went on to describe the necessity of recognizing changing demographics as a key to success for the GOP, particularly given the public perception of Republican policies as being negative for women.

“The Trump campaign is… kind of putting in bold letters some of the problems and fissures in the GOP,” he explained.

However, Trump’s problem reaching women voters expands beyond GOP policies. Meredith Lightstone, senior government and politics major and Co-President of Terps for Hillary, put quite simply why she supports Clinton over Trump.

“She has a record of 30 years of public service,” she said. “He has a record of 30 years of discrimination.”

Lightstone referred to Trump’s reality TV past, noting how “we’re voting for the host of Celebrity Apprentice versus a former secretary of state.”

This disparity in Trump and Clinton’s resumes is one Clinton herself brought up in last night’s debate, listing decade by decade since the 1970s what she has spent her time doing compared to Trump.

In particular, Clinton emphasized her work with the Children’s Defense Fund, school reform and her famous “women’s rights are human rights” speech at the United Nations Fourth World Congress on Women in 1995.

Lightstone, when describing why she supports Clinton, emphasized her policies and work for women and children throughout her career. Lightstone told a story about when she was in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, last week campaigning for Clinton, she met an undecided woman voter who was unaware of one of Clinton’s core policies.

“She was telling me that she wants to vote for a president who cares about maternal leave because she’s pregnant, and isn’t sure that she’s going to be able to take maternal leave without losing her job,” Lightstone said.

Lightstone was incredulous that Clinton’s policy on parental leave had been buried under campaigns filled with insults and mudslinging.

“It was unbelievable to me that the average American was unaware that’s one of Hillary’s major policy points, parental leave,” she said.

Trump’s problem with women, underneath the insults, allegations and obsession with Rosie O’Donnell, may simply boil down to policy and record.

In a political environment where women are the majority vote and subsequently controlling the outcome of an election, representing a party that has lost the female demographic over the past nine presidential elections, according to the Pew Research Center, does not spell success for a Republican candidate.

As Koulish said on negative perceptions of the Republican Party’s relationship with women, “the Trump candidacy just exacerbates and personifies that perception that existed during the Romney campaign and the McCain campaign and going back for the past generation.”

Time will tell if Trump, and the Republican Party, can recover ground lost with women.

Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Gage Skidmore’s Flickr account.

Katrina Schmidt is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at schmidtk@terpmail.umd.edu.

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