Women Push Back in the Battleground


women-voters

In 2010, Republicans won the women’s vote for the first time in 30 years. Republicans rewarded this support with a raft of legislation hostile to the interests of women, beginning with one of their first pieces of legislation, H.R. 3, which attempted to redefine rape to deny emergency contraceptive services to crime victims. For much of 2011, women did not seem to notice. This may be changing.

The Republicans’ more recent decision to reignite the culture war, boorish comments by a radio talk show host, and a budget proposal and debate that aims dead-square against the economic interests of many women in this country may have awakened the women’s vote. Women are starting to push back. 

A recent Democracy Corps/Women’s Voices. Women Vote Action Fund survey in the Congressional battleground shows Democrats making significant gains among women in districts held by Republican incumbents. In the Republican-held districts where we have data from last year, Democrats picked up a net 10 points among women since December and now lead by 4 points. Among unmarried women, Democrats lead by 20 points in Republican held districts. In the entire battleground represented in this survey - including both Republican and Democratic districts - Democrats hold a 51 to 41 lead over Republicans among women. 

The controversy over contraception plays an important role in this movement, but this is not entirely about reproductive and health care freedom. It is also about budget choices that undermine the economic prospects of women and a broader economic narrative that, in their eyes, leaves the middle class and middle-class women behind. Driving that broader narrative will amplify the Democratic margin among women. 

For Democrats, there is still work to do. Progress among younger women—and younger voters overall—is less promising. While Democrats enjoy a healthy margin among unmarried women, these women do not show the same enthusiasm for voting in the 2012 election as married women. Historically, progressives have left many votes on the table because of their failure to turn out unmarried women. Evidence in this survey suggests this could happen again. Importantly, the Republican record on women can play a significant role not only in the margin, but also in energizing participation among traditionally under-represented groups.

For Democrats, there is still work to do. Progress among younger women—and younger voters overall—is less promising. While Democrats enjoy a healthy margin among unmarried women, these women do not show the same enthusiasm for voting in the 2012 election as married women. Historically, progressives have left many votes on the table because of their failure to turn out unmarried women. Evidence in this survey suggests this could happen again. Importantly, the Republican record on women can play a significant role not only in the margin, but also in energizing participation among traditionally under-represented groups. 

Key Findings

In the seats in this survey held by Republican incumbents, Republicans fail to reach 50 percent vote share, leading 49 percent to 43 percent. This is a precarious position for Republican incumbents and Democrats owe their opportunity to women voters.

Several recent national surveys have shown Barack Obama gaining ground among women voters. Few have shown similar gains in congressional balloting. This survey, which looks only at incumbents in targeted districts and employs a named trial heat, shows Obama picking up a net 19 points among women in Republican seats compared to last December and Congressional Democratic challengers picking up a net 10 points. Both the President and Congressional Democrats lose support among men.

Full Findings

Democracy Corps/WVWVAF Memo

Democracy Corps/WVWVAF Frequency Questionnaire

Written by Page Gardner, Women's Voices. Women Vote Action Fund; Stan Greenberg, Democracy Corps/GQRR; Anna Greenberg, GQRR; and Dave Walker, GQRR for Democracy Corps and Women's Voices. Women Vote Action Fund.