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What Female Voters In Pennsylvania Are Thinking Ahead Of The Election

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Pennsylvania, white women and the suburbs - both President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden are trying to woo this very specific demographic in our ongoing series looking at key voters and states that might decide who becomes the next president. We go to a state with 20 electoral votes. In 2016, the Pennsylvania suburbs helped Trump win the presidency. White women in particular were part of his coalition. But fast-forward four years later, and polling shows Joe Biden leading by a whopping 23% among women there. We're joined now by three of them.

I'd like to welcome back Rosie Bigley. I spoke with her in 2018, just before the midterms. She is 62 and lives in Washington County, south of Pittsburgh. She considered herself apolitical until President Trump ran for office, and she now votes Democratic.

Welcome to you.

ROSIE BIGLEY: Thank you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Mariel Abbinati is 32 years old. She lives in Chester County, outside of Philadelphia, and is firmly behind the president.

Welcome to you.

MARIEL ABBINATI: Thank you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And Ruth Morganto is 56. She is also from Chester County. She was a Republican but last year changed her party affiliation to Democratic because of her dislike of the president, and so did her mom.

Welcome to you.

RUTH MORGANTO: Hi. Thank you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So I'm going to start by asking you to take me inside your communities right now, your friend groups. What have you been seeing in terms of attitudes towards the candidates? - Rosie, then Mariel, then Ruth.

BIGLEY: Well, among my friend groups, we're all pretty much behind Joe Biden. Now, in my community, I would say it's probably a 60-40 for Trump.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Have you seen some switching or not really?

BIGLEY: Yes, I have. As a matter of fact, I was just driving through my neighborhood this morning and a cross street - every yard had a sign in for Biden/Harris, but I know some of the families are Republican.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right - Mariel.

ABBINATI: So I would say my close group of friends is very pro-Trump. And I would say my kind of circle of friends - so co-workers included - I would say they're more undecided in our area and that they - you know, they could be swayed.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Right. OK. Ruth.

MORGANTO: OK. So having been a lifelong Republican, my family and quite a few of my friends are lifelong Republicans. But considering how the culture has become so toxic, it has skewed us in the other direction. We have changed because of the hostility, the anger that's out there. And that's just not working for us.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: OK. So, Ruth, you talked about what is motivating your vote this year. I'd like to hear from Mariel and Rosie. What is motivating your vote this year? Mariel.

ABBINATI: I would say the biggest thing that's motivating me to vote for Trump is that - law and order. I've had the privilege of living in multiple cities in this country. And I just have such respect and honor and love for our military and our police officers. And that's a big thing for me and my family. And so knowing that he has their back and knowing that he wants to help cities, you know, maintain law and order is the biggest one for me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So, Rosie, let me ask, what is motivating your vote?

BIGLEY: I am so ashamed of our president's behavior. While we may be facing some threats from outside nations, at the same time, President Trump has been alienating our allies. You know, we've become a laughingstock globally, which frightens me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I guess my question is, what do you like about the vice president? What is it that makes you enthusiastic for him?

BIGLEY: First and foremost, I feel he is a good person, a person of integrity, a man of his word. He has the experience - you know, 47 years' experience behind him, day-to-day experience in the presidency, you know, working right alongside Obama, not treating the government as a business.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Mariel, as we've heard from two of the women on this group, they're turned off by the president and his manner. A lot of polls show that that is common among women - you know, his bombast, his way of tweeting, the way he discusses things. Do you think that matters?

ABBINATI: You know, listen. There are times that President Trump says things that I don't agree with. But overall, I am honestly very happy with the job that he's done for the past four years. And I - the one point that I think I probably disagree with the most with, Ruth, was that I do think that America should be handled like a business. It's a huge business, and I'm happy to have someone who doesn't have political experience.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Rosie, what issues are important to you?

BIGLEY: I think any good businessman is not expected to be an expert in all fields, but they rely on experts for advice and consult. And President Trump certainly hasn't done that. And I look at the - you know, I'm a nurse. And I'm looking at the pandemic that we're going through right now. I truly believe we would not be in the position we are in now if he had listened to the experts that he initially brought on board.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Mariel, I am going to ask you about the pandemic - and then I'd like Ruth to jump in - because obviously, it is something that is affecting the United States right now. We have 215,000-plus dead in this country. And I'd just like to get your thoughts on what you think has been happening in your community and how the president's been handling it.

ABBINATI: There are so many people that, you know, have suffered through this. And I understand that. And I'll be honest. You know, my husband is a small-business owner. We were blessed to receive the PPP loan that the president and our government worked together on to, you know, get passed through. And that helped us tremendously.

So as far as the pandemic goes, where we're at now, you know, I actually have very strong feelings against mandating a mask for this country 'cause I feel that's unconstitutional. I totally agree that we should listen to experts, but I also feel like it's your family and your personal, you know, decision to make sure that you are also listening.

The virus is a terrible thing that has happened. It's also a virus. And so I'm not sure what else Biden and Harris can really do. It seems like their plan is exactly what Trump and Pence have been doing. And I think that we as voters have a responsibility to do things on our own as well and make those decisions for ourselves.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Thank you. Ruth.

MORGANTO: I do agree that there is no one miracle cure. But my thought on it is that the most important thing that leaders can do is just show by example, just show that they are willing to wear the mask, to respect other people wearing the mask, to respect their medical professionals that they work with.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And so you like the leadership of Biden.

MORGANTO: I think that Biden - yes. I think that he is willing to wear a mask and tell people that they should. At least he's setting a good example.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So this is to all three of you. This has been, as I'm sure you have experienced, a very divisive election. There's a lot of rancor. There's a lot of hard rhetoric, a lot of conspiracy theories. And so I would like to ask all three of you to maybe discuss any interpersonal things that you've had to that effect and also what you might - what you think might happen on the other side of this election. And I'm going to start with Ruth and Mariel, then Rosie.

MORGANTO: As far as divisiveness, yes, I'm on Facebook. I - as I said, I have family and friends who are on the other side who are believing in QAnon and believe it all and are, you know, quite strong on the other side. And in some cases, I have just had to agree to disagree.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Mariel.

ABBINATI: Yeah. I guess to start, I definitely feel the hostility. I'm actually really happy we're doing this because I feel like this doesn't happen anymore. And it's a sad thing. I personally - I have neighbors, I have friends who are Democrats. We don't talk about politics, but we can still be friends. And I don't think government realizes that 90% of Americans are still doing this. And rather I have a Trump sign on my lawn and my neighbor has a Biden sign, they brought us over pasta last night because, you know, we were trying to get together for dinner. That, to me, is the way 90% of America is. And I think that government is the reason why there's so much divisiveness.

MORGANTO: I just want - I want to agree with Mariel that I am optimistic that all of us are more moderate than the extremes the people in government seem to be representing. They seem to be representing pieces of their base. Far more of us are - I call myself the compassionate middle.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Rosie.

BIGLEY: I don't think anyone's extreme right or extreme left in this group. And we all want peace within this country.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That was Rosie Bigley, Mariel Abbinati and Ruth Morganto.

Thank you all so much.

ABBINATI: Thank you so much. Yes.

BIGLEY: Thank you.

MORGANTO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.