Choice is Key for President Obama: NARAL Pro-Choice America


On behalf of NARAL Pro-Choice America, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research conducted two post-election surveys[1] among a total of 1,200 pro-choice women in 25 key counties across nine battleground states[2].  These women were identified as the most likely to have voted for President Obama in 2008 but who were not strongly supporting him in 2012, according to a model built by GQRR exclusively for NARAL Pro-Choice America.

The surveys highlight two key points:

  1. Choice was a defining and decisive voting issue for this group of swing women voters. It ranks as the number one reason for these likely defector women to have voted against Mitt Romney.
  2. NARAL Pro-Choice America’s communications had an impact on the Obama defector voters and helped drive more votes to President Obama in these critical counties. The women who received NARAL’s mail were more likely to say NARAL’s communications made a difference in their vote than those who did not receive the mail.

What We Did

Prior to Election Day, the Obama defector model was used to identify the 338,000 women in these 25 counties who were most likely to have voted for the president in 2008 but were not strongly supporting him in 2012.  Sixty thousand records out of the 338,000 were then set aside as a control—these voters did not receive NARAL’s mail communications.  The rest of the voters did receive NARAL’s communications and form the treatment universe.

The treatment universe received four pieces of mail from NARAL Pro-Choice America between October 18th and October 26th, 2012.

The aim of this program was not only to move votes to President Obama, but to demonstrate the impact of NARAL’s communications.  The total post-election sample of 1,200 likely Obama defector voters was divided into two distinct segments of 600—one comprised of a representative sample of the treatment universe; the other made up of a representative sample of the control universe.  The data in each sample were balanced on key demographic characteristics to ensure they were reflective of each other.

Choice Was a Key Voting Issue in 2012 For This Swing Bloc of Women

These surveys show that choice was an important, winning issue this year and it contributed to President Obama’s margin of victory:

Choice was the number one reason for these women to vote against Mitt Romney. The following chart shows that among these Obama defector women, choice was a better reason to oppose Romney than even economic issues.

“Now let me read you some statements about Mitt Romney. Regardless of who you voted for, for each statement, please tell me whether this is a very persuasive reason to vote against Mitt Romney, a somewhat persuasive reason, a little persuasive, or not at all a persuasive reason to vote against Mitt Romney.”

Among these women, President Obama’s advantage on choice was greater than on any other issue. The table below shows that the likely defector women gave Obama a bigger advantage on protecting a woman’s right to choose than any other major issue.

“I am going to read you a list of issues, and I'd like you to tell me whether, overall, you think Barack Obama or Mitt Romney does a better job with this issue.”

Choice impacted how these women made up their minds. Across the two surveys, 90 percent of these women said the right to choose and access to birth control was an important issue to them in deciding how to vote.  More than three-quarters (76 percent) said it was very important to them.Choice played an increased role in this election compared to years past. The barrage of ads on choice from both sides during the closing weeks of the campaign makes this point abundantly clear—more than a third of the Obama defector women said they paid more attention to the issue of abortion this year than in past elections. 

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The Impact of NARAL Pro-Choice America’s Communications 

NARAL Pro-Choice America’s voter communication plan effectively used choice as an issue in this election to help bring back some of these women defectors in key counties by driving votes away from Mitt Romney.

A greater proportion of the women in the treatment universe (who got NARAL mail) say that it made them less likely to vote for Romney than those in the control universe.Twenty-six percent of women in the treatment universe said that NARAL’s communications made them less likely to support Romney versus 18 percent in the control universe, who did not get the NARAL mail. NARAL Pro-Choice America’s mail had a particularly strong impact on the voters who would be less likely to support Obama on issues other than choice. Self-identified conservative women in NARAL’s target universe gave Obama only a small 10-point advantage on which candidate would do better with the economy and jobs, and they gave Romney a 1-point edge on government spending.  A formal, advanced statistical analysis demonstrates that NARAL's communications were particularly effective at depressing Romney's vote among these more conservative likely Obama defectors.  Among voters who had a favorable opinion of Romney, NARAL's mail depressed Romney’s vote share by 12 percentage points. Among self-described conservatives the drop was 7 percentage points.

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The Bottom Line

While the economy was the dominant issue in this presidential campaign, choice also played a major role that contributed to President Obama’s win.  In fact, these post-election surveys show that among the likeliest Obama defector women in some of the most important counties in the country, choice was the defining issue in their opposition to Mitt Romney.  NARAL Pro-Choice America effectively and efficiently targeted and communicated with these voters in a way that helped to both increase Obama’s margin and establish choice as a winning campaign issue.

[1] The survey was conducted by live professional interviewers between November 6th and 11th, 2012.  Each 600   sample is subject to a margin of error of +/-4.0 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence interval; margin of error is higher among subgroups.

[2] Cuyahoga, Hamilton, Franklin (OH); Orange, Hillsborough, Pinellas (FL); Loudoun, Prince William, Fairfax, Henrico (VA); Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha (WI); Jefferson, Adams, Denver, Arapahoe (CO); Polk, Story, Johnson (IA); Clark (NV); Wake, Mecklenburg (NC); Hillsborough, Rockingham (NH)