The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The wave that’s building for November may not be blue so much as pink

Protesters during the Women’s March on Washington, with the U.S. Capitol in the background, on Jan. 21, 2017. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Given the wealth of news stories in any given five-minute period and given the focus on the battle to control the House in November’s midterm elections, there has been a consistent pattern to the tenure of President Trump that often goes unmentioned: the steady and active opposition of a majority of American women to his presidency.

It was women who launched the first massive protest of the Trump era, marching the day after his inauguration in the millions to express opposition to his election. It was women who led the anti-Trump effort at the outset; it’s women who lead it still. Even the advent of the #MeToo movement has roots in opposition to Trump, both given the outstanding accusations against him and given the fuel that his triumph in 2016 added to the push to hold powerful men accountable.

Perhaps because this has been a constant undercurrent since early last year, it often goes unremarked upon. But it shouldn’t, particularly in the context of electoral politics. As the midterms near, there are signs that an energized base of women will play a significant — and probably defining — role in the outcome.

Consider the following metrics.

More women are running for the House than in any recent election.

Data from the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University shows that more women have filed to run for Congress than at any point since at least 1992 — and by a wide margin. That year, 298 women ran for the House of Representatives. This year, 476 have — most of them Democrats.

And they’re faring well — especially as Democrats. There are still a lot of outstanding races in states that haven’t yet held primaries, but about half of the House Democratic primary contests that have been settled have seen women emerge victorious, according to Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman. On the Republican side, it’s less than a fifth.

Republicans, in fact, are worried about the number of women their party will send to the House next year — a total that may actually drop despite the trend above.


Women may prefer Democratic candidates by a record margin.

Only once since 1982 have women preferred Republicans to Democrats in House races, according to exit polling. That was in 2010, when a Republican wave turned the House red. The widest gap in favor of the Democrats came in 1982, when exit polls showed women preferring the Democratic candidate in House contests by 16 points.

Two recent polls, though, show that record may be broken.

A poll from Quinnipiac University released last week shows a 25-point margin in favor of the Democrats among women. A poll from NPR-PBS NewsHour-Marist has the gap at 21 points.

In each of the elections where women preferred Democrats to Republicans by at least 10 points, Democrats gained seats in the House.

Women are contributing more than ever — heavily to Democratic women.

NBC News reported an interesting bit of data over the weekend. In 2014, 198,000 women contributed at least $200 to a federal campaign or political action committee. So far this year, with more than three months to go, 329,000 women have.

Those numbers are from the Center for Responsive Politics, which in March released data showing where those contributions were going. A little less than a third of all contributions to House candidates came from women. But 44 percent of contributions to female Democratic candidates came from women, the highest percentage going to any group since at least 2000.

Democratic women are more enthusiastic about voting than Republican men.

This month, The Post and our partners at the Schar School of Policy and Government released a poll gauging enthusiasm for voting in the midterms. Overall, women were slightly more likely to say that voting is “extremely” or “very” important.

There are two important caveats. First, that gap isn’t statistically significant by itself. But, second, there’s a gender gap between those saying “extremely” and those saying “very” that is significant. Men are much more likely to say that voting is “extremely” important.

There are wide differences by party, though. Democratic women are more likely to say that it’s “extremely” or “very” important to vote than are Republican men — and much more so than Republican women. This may help explain that campaign-contributions graphic: Republican women aren’t as energized as Democrats.

What’s particularly remarkable, though, is the gender split among independents.

Independent women are much more likely to say it’s “extremely” or “very” important to vote — a total that’s only slightly lower than the figure among Democratic men. That could be a hugely significant factor in November.

A survey released by the Kaiser Family Foundation on Monday shows a different perspective of the enthusiasm split by gender. While women indicated that they were slightly more enthusiastic about voting than men, the increase in the percentage saying that relative to four years ago was much higher, an increase of 18 percentage points among women compared with 11 points among men. Among younger women — a group more likely to vote Democratic — that increase was larger still.

That’s a good reminder of the obvious overlap in the numbers above with other important demographic trends, including party identification and race. But that overlap often tends to mute the remarkable shifts in the engagement of women that 2018 has already presented.

There have been lots of putative Years of the Woman in American politics. The numbers suggest that 2018 is more likely to be one than any in the recent past and that Trump probably can take some credit for that.