A lot of ink (well, pixels) have been spilled dissecting the Democrat’s so-called “War on Women” strategy. In fact, Carrie Lukas and I write a lot about it in our new book Liberty is No War on Women.
The notion that one political party is openly hostile to more than 50 percent of the electorate should strike any reasonable person — Republican or Democrat — as patently absurd. You don’t have to be a political scientist to know that women – single-married, rural-urban, young-old, mothers-childless – are not an homogenous voting bloc.
Still the Obama campaign has made women a focal point of the election, and the question remains:Will this rhetoric actually drive more women to vote for the president? Will the War on Women storyline capture women in the middle – or, even possibly sway weak Republican women?
Since we can’t know exactly what the 2012 voting populace will look like or how the vote split will pan out it’s helpful to take a closer look at the 2008 voting population and consider what that might tell us about this November’s election.
One way to do that is to take a look at the Cooperative Congressional Election Study – a more than 30,000 person national sample survey conducted by YouGov Polimetrix. The CCES provides some very useful data that my husband Adam Schaeffer (also writing about public opinion here at Richochet) and I recently dived into.
We asked who were the women who turned out in 2008 when Obama solidly defeated Sen. John McCain? The majority of 2008 female voters were married or widowed (66 percent); while 33 percent were single, unmarried living with a partner, or divorced.
More importantly we wanted to know how these different groups broke down in terms of vote preference. Not too surprisingly, married women voted solidly for McCain by a margin of 4-points, with almost 52 percent. While Sen. McCain won this largest bloc of female voters by a strong majority, he failed to win the overall female vote. Obama won the smaller bloc of unmarried women (72-27) — a 45-point margin — enabling him to win 56 percent of the total female vote.
One more thing: while in 2008 women dominated the electorate by 8-points (54-46), when you eliminate strong partisans on both sides of the aisle from the mix, that gender split shrinks to under 1-point(50-49). That means that the potential “swing electorate” is pretty evenly divided between the genders.
The bottom line is that single women remain a critical voting bloc for President Obama. This is his base and this is the basis for the War on Women rhetoric.
Democrats are not parading Sandra Fluke around in an effort to convince all women – or even moderate women – that Republicans are trying to take away their birth control. (Maybe they “hope” there will be some bleed over, but it’s unlikely.) In fact, research the Independent Women’s Voice commissioned back in June already found that the War on Women language backfired with independents and weak partisans. It only resonated with the most liberal Democrats.
The whole War on Women cacophony is a mix of threat and fear that seems to be music to the ears of the Democratic base. 62 percent of strong Democrats are women, and these are the voters the Obama campaign is targeting.
The reality is all this talk about the “women’s vote” is largely a moot point. In the end, the War on Women campaign is a despicable use of identity politics and fear-mongering that should embarrass any respectable partisan. But putting that aside, it turns out Democrats are expending a whole lot of political capital simply to shore up a core constituency.