- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 2, 2000

PHILADELPHIA Women are having second thoughts about the economy and are more ambivalent and pessimistic than they've been in a decade, according to Women's Voices 2000, a study released yesterday at the Republican National Convention.
"In 1992, the economy was rotten, but women were optimistic," said Linda Tarr-Whelan, president of the District of Columbia-based Center for Policy Alternatives, which co-sponsored the study with Lifetime Television.
"By 1996, there was an explosion of interest in entrepreneurship. Women started their own businesses in large numbers. Now, it's 'Hold on just a second. We've had this big economic expansion, but it's not touching our families.' "
The study, conducted in June among seven racially mixed focus groups of 10 women each in Oakland, Calif.; Atlanta; and Hartford, Conn., sought to explore underlying attitudes held by women at the turn of the century.
The study did not release definitive statistics or give out specific figures.
"Technology has not made things easier," said Republican pollster Linda DiVall, a part of the research team. "Instead, it's compacted everything and sped up everything. With the new technology, women are expected to do five things at once, instead of the two or three things at once they were expected to do before."
Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, a co-researcher, said many women are asking the Jack Nicholson question: "Is this as good as it gets?"
"Women feel they are master schedulers," she said. "A NASA liftoff is nothing compared to what women have to get together in the morning."
She added, "Women feel there is little to fall back on if they lose their jobs. They have little savings and there's no safety net." U.S. Department of Labor figures say women are less than half as likely as men to have a pension and those who do have one receive half as much.
Black women in particular were worried about the safety of their children.
"African-American women wondered if they could keep their sons alive until 18," said Mrs. Lake. "African-American mothers express poignant concerns about the influence the streets will have on their sons in the absence of African-American role models."
Both pollsters admitted that although they could not project their study onto a larger population, it did give them glimpses of the hearts and minds of the electorate. Politicians, they said, need to be aware of the strong undercurrent of doubt running through American society, at least in the minds of its women.
"We're finding the two [presidential] candidates are tied on the women's vote," Mrs. DiVall said. "Al Gore is not doing anywhere as well with women as [President] Clinton did four years ago."
"In some ways," Mrs. Lake said, "women are leading the political agenda. Both parties are geared toward women's issues."
But who is defining those issues? A press conference yesterday morning sponsored by Renaissance Women, a McLean, Va.-based group of politically active Christian women, posed the question: "What Do Women Want?"
"Real women want a breath of fresh air, a positive approach to solving problems," said Renaissance member Claudia Barlow. "Like Dick Cheney said, 'We've had a bellyful for the past eight years.'
"We want more patriots, some more Mel Gibsons, if you will," she said.

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