The NYTimes ran an article this week about attitudes regarding working mothers. This time the conversation was sparked by critiques of Wendy Davis, running for governor of Texas, who was financially supported by her husband to attend Harvard Law School while her husband parented her two children in Texas. The article cited National Marriage Project director Brad Wilcox, who stated the following:
I took issue with this flip statement and the impression that he suggested women both want to be primary caretakers and will judge other women running for political office because of it. To my surprise, Wilcox responded to my (possibly regrettable) sarcastic tweet:
I followed up on the data he provided, which comes from this Pew Research article, Mothers and work: What's 'Ideal'? The question respondents were asked wasn't about judgments of other moms. They were simply asked: “Considering everything, what would be the ideal situation for you — working full time, working part time, or not working at all outside the home?” In fact, the Pew article goes on to describe this data as representative of a fluctuating economy, differences in personal economic circumstances, and indicates common challenges faced by dual-earner couples.
I'd also venture to guess that the differences in married and unmarried women's ideals has to do with not just economic characteristics, but also represents a selection effect. Conservative women are more likely to be married than their more liberal counterparts.
Secondly, a better question to assess political views of working moms should evoke a judgment response, not an attitude question about a personal situation. I like this question from the General Social Survey (GSS): "It is usually better for everyone involved if the man is the achiever outside the home and the woman takes care of the home and family." Respondents can strongly disagree, disagree, agree, or strongly agree. I graphed this over time for women with at least one child by marital status and political views.
Indeed, conservative married mothers are more likely to agree with this stereotypical division of labor than liberal mothers. Liberal mothers, married or not, are less likely to agree.
I'm no political pundit, but my guess is that married conservative women are not likely to vote for Wendy Davis, regardless of how she chose to balance parenting and career opportunities.