HARRISBURG - A new political poll suggests that Pennsylvania women value brains over a bank account in a presidential candidate.
When 598 female voters were asked earlier this month for a one-word description of President Obama, most landed on intelligent.
When the same group was asked to describe Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney, the word most frequently cited was rich.
In a head-to-head matchup, the same voters selected Obama over Romney by 44 percent to 36 percent - though they generally gave Obama only a "C" grade for his first term in office.
And many used the word disappointing when asked about Obama.
The findings were among many in a new poll titled "What Women Want," released Tuesday by Mercyhurst University.
"The take-away from this poll is that despite all the challenges Obama has faced since taking office, he still has support among women in Pennsylvania," said Joseph Morris, a professor of political science and director of the Center for Applied Politics at Mercyhurst, in Erie.
Women are more likely to vote Democratic than men, and they turn out in greater numbers on Election Day, Morris said, describing this as a "nationwide phenomenon" and not confined to Pennsylvania.
Among survey respondents, 42 percent identified themselves as Democrats, 31 percent as Republican, and 23 percent as independent. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in the state.
The poll, conducted over 10 days that ended Jan. 25, interviewed 598 registered women across Pennsylvania by telephone. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.01 percent.
Women voters in the state said they are comfortable with the all-male ticket of Obama and Vice President Biden. The Mercyhurst poll asked if adding Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the ticket as vice presidential candidate - as has been speculated upon in the media - would make them more likely to support Obama. Seventy-three percent of those surveyed said it would have "no effect."
The poll took the unusual approach of asking voters to describe the candidate in a single word. They were not offered a list to choose from, but were asked to came up with their own word - and there were hundreds of them, Morris said.
But a number of voters cited the same words: for Obama some of the most popular were president, leader, trying, and honest. For Romney it was business, businessman, Mormon, and arrogant.
"Asking them to give a single word was an effort to get a picture or an impression among women," Morris said.
He said the words indicated that feelings toward Obama were more overtly positive or negative; for Romney, they were more neutral.
"For Romney, that's a positive," Morris said. "He's still unknown commodity compared to Obama, but he could use that in Pennsylvania to his advantage."
Another finding suggests an overwhelming number of women want to end the partisan bickering in Washington.
Seventy-one percent said they considered it "absolutely essential" that a presidential candidate be "willing to work with members of the other political party."
That was far higher than the percentage who said, for example, that the candidate should have business experience or be a Christian.
Contact staff writer Amy Worden at 717-783-2584 or firstname.lastname@example.org or at @inkyamy on Twitter.