Courting the Female Voter
March 16, 2012
Women are the coveted demographic of the moment. Republican presidential candidates have been getting attention — both positive and negative — with their stances on birth control and abortion. President Obama is launching a big push to attract women voters — well timed, given that a recent Bloomberg National Poll showed his share of the female vote slipping from 56 percent in 2008 to 49 percent today. How important will women be this November, and how swingable is their vote?
“The two parties are using abortion and contraception as issues to appeal to two different groups of women voters,” explains Ange-Marie Hancock of the USC Dornsife College, an expert on women and politics. “The GOP is using abortion to fire up its female base to get out and vote, because they will almost always vote for the Republican candidate and they may not yet be as excited about the field. The Obama campaign is attempting to capitalize on the abortion and contraception issues because they are concerned about keeping independent women in their camp.
“In 2008, independent women broke by 10 points for Obama, and independent men by only five points,” Hancock notes. “So the Obama campaign is positioning this election to independent women voters as a choice between the president, who has gotten insurance companies to cover women’s regular contraception costs, and whichever of the four Republican candidates become the nominee, who have all promised to repeal that coverage.
Hancock says that voters of both genders dislike having government benefits taken away once they are in place — “case in point: Social Security is a sacred cow.” She adds: “Although both sides will pitch this as just a female issue, unlike abortion, which is far more rare, contraception coverage affects most voting adults — both women who have sex with men, and men who like to have sex with women — regardless of their religious beliefs or income. Contraception is a regular financial expense for sexually active adults, no less than gas for your car to get to work. Promising to take that coverage away by repealing health care reform can therefore hurt the GOP among women independents, and the Obama campaign wants to connect those dots for women voters.”
Ange-Marie Hancock is associate professor of Political Science at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Contact her at (213) 740-3297 (office), (310) 994-5563 (cell) or firstname.lastname@example.org.