It’s official – Donald Trump has a problem with women. No, we’re not talking about the fact that the Republican presidential candidate is on his third marriage. Rather, we’re talking about his standing with female voters.
According to a March 24 CNN poll, 73% of women disapprove of Trump, based in part on disparaging comments that he’s made about the fairer sex during the course of his presidential campaign.
These comments have included criticism of former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina’s face, constant barbs thrown at Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, and retweeting an attack on Ted Cruz’s wife. When he recently told MSNBC that women who undergo abortions illegally should be punished, he was condemned by so many that some speculated that he’d done irreparable harm to his campaign. (He has since walked back that comment.)
But, Trump boasts a large group of voters who will stand by him no matter what, and at least a sizable number happen to be women. In a March 23 Quinnipiac poll, 26% of women polled had a “somewhat favorable” or “strongly favorable” opinion of the candidate, and it’s worth noting that Trump’s chief spokesperson, Katrina Pierson, is a woman.
The security moms
According to The New York Post, many of these women are self-described “security moms,” who first gained notice in 2004 when they helped re-elect former president George W. Bush. Their concern for the safety of the United States in the face of terrorism and other security threats is the organizing principle driving their support for Trump, whom they perceive as best equipped to deal with this issue.
“They’re women who vote not on traditional ‘women’s issues’ — education, abortion, etc. — but on foreign policy,” the Post’s Naomi Schaefer Riley said.
Michelle Fowarski, a Trump supporter from Mosinee, Wisconsin, told ABC News that even though she disagreed with his comments about abortion, it wasn’t her primary consideration.
“I think there are bigger things to deal with,” she said. “Guess what? He’s going to protect us from ISIS.”
The college ‘babes’
Many of Trump’s most vocal female supporters can be found on Twitter. This includes the Twitter page, “Babes for Trump,” whose tweets include photos of young women in various states of undress, pledging their support for the candidate, sometimes with pro-Trump slogans written on their bodies. The Twitter feed was started in late February and now has more than 11,000 followers.
According to Vice, “Babes for Trump” is actually run by four anonymous men, who post the photos that are contributed by the “Babes” in question. They had gotten the idea for the group after seeing all of the photos of female Trump supporters posted on social media. “We were on Twitter browsing through our feed and saw the hashtag #babesfortrump accompanied with an image of an attractive young woman,” a representative from the group told Vice. “We were baffled to see that young college women were full on supporting Trump and weren’t afraid to show a little skin while they’re at it.”
“We don’t want to speak for everyone, but we think the draw to him is that he has the quintessential ‘bad boy’ attitude about him,” the representative said when asked what these women find sexually attractive about Trump. “He isn’t afraid to be controversial or speak his feelings.”
Trump has the support of some young women currently in college. Cassidy Cook, an 18-year-old student at Campbell University in North Carolina and National Secretary for Students for Trump, told Fortune that she supports the candidate because she believes he’ll bring much-needed change to the nation.
“I believe that he can put things back on track again,” she told Fortune via email. “America has changed a lot over the years, and though change is good, we Americans still need to do what’s best for us; for our country. So by supporting Donald, I believe that he can put into place what needs to be done here in America.”
Cook added that she does not believe Trump is a misogynist, and that the allegation that he is one is just that — an allegation.
“People will do whatever they can nowadays to bring someone good down,” she said. “They know that once he gets into office, things are going to change, but they’re going to change for the good. The people running the bad, they don’t like change, and especially if it’s a good kind of change.”
Comedian Chelsea Handler, meanwhile, was having none of it. On Monday she tweeted her own photo tribute to the host of “Celebrity Apprentice,” inspired by the “Babes for Trump” group.
Time will tell if Trump’s recent imbroglio does lasting damage to his electoral prospects, or if it’s yet another instance in which he survives a controversy that would fatally doom any other campaign. But however this turns out for him, there is a large segment of female voters who just can’t quit him, and who still have his back.
Daniel Bukszpan is a New York-based freelance writer.