Given that women have held the key to deciding every US Presidential election since 1968, it appears that both the Republican and Democratic presumptive nominees have some work to do if they hope to shore up support among the demographic in the remaining 90 days leading up the general election.

According to a new poll unveiled by Lifetime Networks’ non-partisan Every Woman Counts campaign, women are torn over whether they will support Senators John McCain or Barack Obama in November.

With neither nominee claiming a majority among women voters in the poll, Obama claims 49% of women voters, while McCain claims only 38%.

The caveat, however, is that 6% of the women polled by Lifetime indicated that they were only ‘leaning toward a candidate’ and another 10% remain firmly undecided, meaning the balance of power in the race could shift at any moment.

Moreover, the poll revealed that one in five Hillary Clinton voters plan to cross party lines and vote for McCain in the general election.

Elsewhere in the Lifetime poll, signs that Barack Obama is dogged by limited support from women outside minority groups remain persistent.

While the Democratic nominee is doing expectedly well with minority women, with support from 89% of African-Americans and 62% of Hispanics, McCain is steadily earning support from nearly half of Caucasian women surveyed (47% vs. 38% for Obama).

Adding further instability to the race, Hispanic women (14%) were more undecided than African-Americans (4%) or Caucasians (11%).

To win over women voters both McCain and Obama will have to be strategic in their outreach to the core group, but according to the Lifetime Poll choosing a woman Vice Presidential running mates will do little to improve either’s chances of securing a bump among women.

According to the survey, the majority of women voters polled say gender does not matter.

Accordingly, Obama’s selection of a woman running mate makes no difference to 55% of women voters, and McCain’s selection of a woman as his number two makes no difference to 62%.

That said, Obama would benefit twice as much as McCain from offering the second slot to a woman (29% more likely to support Obama if he picks a woman vs. 15% who would be more likely to support McCain).

In actuality, selecting a woman number two would result in a net negative for McCain, says the Lifetime Poll.
While 15% of women said they would be more likely to support McCain if he picked a woman, 20% said they would be less likely to pick him if a woman were on his ticket.

The most interesting part of the Every Woman Counts poll has to do with the way respondents view the future of women in politics.

Nearly half (44%) of women polled believe the country will see a woman in the Oval Office within eight years, including 23% of them who said it will happen in 2012, suggesting many believe whomever is elected this year will be a one-term President.

Intriguingly, three in ten women polled also still believe Hillary Clinton will be the first female President.

Lifetime is the leader in women’s television and one of America’s top-rated basic cable television networks.

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