The YG Network, one of the groups behind the Room to Grow reform conservative agenda, has an interesting poll out today. Provided first to Right Turn, the poll of 800 adult women found room for the GOP to make inroads with female voters. Its key findings:
- As many women feel that neither party cares about their family’s challenges and concerns (34%) as believe that the Democratic Party does (33%).
- While 29% self-report as Republican and 40% as Democratic, 36% consider themselves to be conservative in their social, economic and political views.
- Women cite jobs, economy, healthcare and education as primary concerns.
- Overall, women are pessimistic about the economic future of the country and believe their current economic situation is a struggle with little prospect of improving.
- Women are eager for flexibility in the workplace – whether in the form of choice between overtime or time off or in supporting employers so they can provide more flexible work arrangements and paid leave options.
- Even though a majority of women claim not to have experienced gender discrimination themselves, they believe women are paid unequally.
- Women support marriage and see it as vital to the fabric of society. A majority (56%) says the country is “worse off” due to declining marriage rates. Legal and tax reforms that increase fairness to married couples have high levels of support.
- There is strong support for increasing the child tax credit.
Women are split on Obamacare – 46 percent approve and 46 percent disapprove. But when you dig deeper you see 51 percent either want Obamacare repealed and replaced or want major fixes to it, compared with 42 percent who would prefer leaving it “as is” or making only minor fixes. Forty-eight percent would like the option of buying catastrophic, low-cost health plans and other appealing revisions, including tax credits for those without employer-provided insurance. They still want provisions that prohibit discrimination for preexisting conditions.
Only 25 percent of women rate the U.S. public school system as good or excellent. They don’t necessarily want to spend more money on public schools, however. On higher education, there is strong support for an alternative to four-year colleges such as high-quality apprenticeship programs and other occupational education programs.
And when it comes to fuel bills, only 22 percent say they would support paying higher energy bills to combat climate change; 56 percent want alternative methods of reducing the risks posed by climate change.
A majority of women (56 percent) believe that the declining marriage rate is making the overall culture and prosperity of the country worse off. They favor debt reduction over more spending and tax credits to relocate the unemployed. And, while they want a strong safety net, 88 percent believe that able-bodied adults who receive food stamps, Medicaid, and other forms of public assistance should be required to work or to look for work.
What does this tell conservative candidates and officeholders? In order to attract more women voters, they will need to be seen as solving the problems that women care most about. It means an alternative to Obamacare, education reform (not necessarily more spending) and policies to promote economic growth. Offering alternatives to more spending or tying government benefits to work won’t scare off these voters. To the contrary, they approve of reforms that don’t necessarily cost government anything. (For example, 72 percent supports giving parents and students in public schools flexibility to choose the classes and courses that suit them. In the workplace, 89 percent of women agree that employers should be able to offer their employees the choice of overtime pay or time off, providing more flexibility for their workers.)
In sum, the sort of reform initiatives designed to address middle class and lower-class voters in general should also help Republicans with women voters. Republicans have done reasonably well with married women but lost unmarried women by huge majorities. It is fair to say that what the GOP has been doing in the past – offering a pro-business, small-government vision of cutting taxes and government – has little sell with women voters. Republicans don’t have to imitate liberals in fashioning a welfare state, but they do need to understand the concerns of women voters. If they don’t and refuse to come up with a problem-solving agenda, there is no reason to expect they will do any better with women than they have in the recent past.