Democrats’ ‘war on women’ strategy still works. For now.


Members of Congress take photos as President Obama signs executive action on pending Senate legislation aimed at closing a compensation gender gap that favors men on April 8 in the East Room of the White House in Washington. The president and his Democratic allies in Congress are making a concerted election-year push to draw attention to women’s wages. (Susan Walsh/AP)

Democrats, facing a tough midterm election with crucial races in red states, have been focused on highlighting issues like the gender pay gap and the minimum wage, framing the economy as yet another front in their “war on women” strategy.

Well, it seems to be paying off. At least for now.

A new Washington Post-ABC News polls shows that women are increasingly engaged in the midterm elections, and energized by “women’s issues,” although the economy, health care and how Washington works rank as the highest priorities.

Democrats have typically had an edge with women, and so far they have been able to maintain it, even as they have lost some ground.

Let’s start with President Obama.

Overall, the poll shows that women have a more positive view of Obama than men--50 percent of women approve of the job that he is doing, while 42 percent of men approve. Since January, the president’s approval rating among women has seen a slight uptick, while men’s opinion of Obama has been on a slight decline.


Women also trust Obama more than they trust Republicans in Congress to deal with the country’s challenges–45 percent pick Obama, with 36 percent choosing Republicans in Congress.  For men, it’s a tie, 40 percent to 40 percenct. Overall, though, Obama has lost ground among women, with Republicans gaining some ground. In December of 2012, women trusted Obama much more–57 percent picked him over Congress.  The decline to 43 percent in December of 2013, came as the White House grappled with the disastrous health care Web site rollout.


And, on the generic ballot, women give the edge to Democrats over Republicans, whereas men back Republicans, 49 to 40.


These numbers suggest that as a messenger, Obama is still a good one, although he lost some points around health care. None of this means that Democratic candidates will want Obama out on the stump with them, but Obama’s strategy of highlighting women’s issues from the White House, and on the road, does seem to continue to resonate with women voters, who backed him by double digits over Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012.

The most interesting trend from this poll that backs this up is that over the last year, women have become much more likely to say they will vote.

In August of 2012, on the eve of a presidential election, 69 percent of women said that they were absolutely certain to vote.  Now, that figure stands at 77 percent.


So what has energized women?

The issue that has so far shaped much of the debate on the ground has been the Affordable Care Act, although that strategy also seems to be shifting from an all-out assault on the law by GOP candidates, to something more nuanced.

And where do women come down on health care? Before the numbers, some context.

Republicans and Democrats have both tried to frame the good and bad of health care around women. In anecdotes from the stump and in campaign commercials, women have been front and center, testifying as to how the ACA either helped them or hurt them.

But, according to our poll, neither side has gained the edge with women on Obamacare, although since March there has been a 5 point positive swing for the law among women.


Like most midterms, November will be about getting out the base and our poll shows that the base sees “issues that are especially important to women,” as a midterm priority. Almost 70 percent of Democrats see these issues as important to their vote for candidates for Congress, with just 43 percent of Republicans saying the same thing.  Overall, 53 percent of voters see this as important.  Women voters, not surprisingly have some of the strongest views, and will have these issues in mind as they think about who to back for Congress.


 

This poll comes as a group of House Democratic women led by Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) wrap up a “When Women Succeed, America Succeeds,” bus tour that rolled through several states including New York, Illinois and Ohio and the White House preps for a June 23 working families summit at the White House.

 

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