As midterm fears mount, Democrats seek to rally on women’s issues to win

Hours after the Supreme Court struck down federal abortion protections in June, President Joe Biden addressed the nation with a stark statement: “Roe is on the ballot in November.”

That message has been a focal point for the Democratic Party heading into the midterm elections at a time when Biden faces historic low approval ratings even among supporters, falling to 36% in July according to a poll conducted by CNBC.

But in the wake of Roe’s overthrow, the issues of abortion access and women’s health have been pushed back to the top of voters’ lists of issues, giving Democrats a silver lining to beat their opponents. Republicans in key state elections in November.

A poll conducted by the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Chicago (AP-NORC) in the days following the Dobbs v. Jackson case, in which the Court terminated the protection federal abortion law, found that 22% of voters consider abortion or women’s rights a priority issue for this year’s election, nearly triple the percentage found by the same survey in December 2021.

And a June 9 Kaiser Family Foundation report, weeks before the ruling was released, found that 25% of female voters ages 18-49 say they are motivated this fall to support only a candidate who wants to protect access. to abortion.

An expert said Newsweek there is a simple formula for gender politics in an election year.

“Generally, the strategy for Democrats in a tight year is: win more women than you lose men,” said Celinda Lake, a top DNC political strategist.

According to the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), women voters have outnumbered men since the 1980s, including in midterm elections, and are more likely to vote for Democratic candidates. In 2020, women outnumbered men by 68.4% to 65%.

Democratic members of Congress walk across the street from the Capitol to the Supreme Court to protest the court’s decision to overturn the constitutional right of women to abortion in America on June 24, 2022, outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC
Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis/Getty Images

But even with a greater focus on women’s health, access to abortion still lags behind other election issues heading into the midterms. A New York Times/Siena College poll conducted in early July found that abortion and women’s rights ranked sixth among the issues facing the country today, behind the economy, inflation and policies on firearms.

However, Lake said Newsweek that female voters could still prove valuable to the DNC, given that inflation generally has a different impact on their consumption baskets than men. For example, women are more likely to seek support this fall for the rising cost of health care, groceries and education — issues on which voters generally trust Democrats more than Republicans. .

“Men think it’s a good day when the government hasn’t hurt you,” Lake said. “Women think they and their families might need a safety net program at some point. A lot of men think, ‘I can handle this on my own, I can take care of my family.'”

“This is the area of ​​fighting inflation where Democrats have the biggest advantage,” Lake added.

The CAWP found that in 2020, women were more likely than men to support government spending on social programs, such as health insurance and poor relief. Women are also more likely than men to support gun laws — 55.6% to 43.6% respectfully — giving Democrats another potentially winning issue in November.

However, CAWP Director of Research Kelly Dittmar said Newsweek that racial and ideological differences among women offer Democrats a different challenge to mobilize voters on abortion rights. In the same 2020 CAWP study, only 23.6% of Republican women said abortion is always a matter of personal choice, while 72.2% of Democratic women agreed with this statement.

“Female voters are far from monolithic, which both political parties must have learned from thinking about how best to engage female voters,” Dittmar said. Newsweek.

This theory gained credence in the 2020 presidential election, when Donald Trump narrowed the gender gap by winning favor with female voters, according to the Pew Research Center. While President Joe Biden has consistently won women by 11 points, Trump increased his favor from 39% in 2016 to 44% in the 2020 election, in which Republicans won votes for white women by 7 points.

The abortion issue doesn’t seem to be stopping the Republicans’ momentum either. In the weeks leading up to the 2022 primaries, a CNN analysis found that even after the Dobbs v. Jackson draft decision was leaked, Republicans were 13 points better on women than in the last midterm election in 2018.

“For Democrats, the party still needs to do important work to best meet the needs and demands of women representing the full diversity among them – from racial and ethnic diversity to class and ideological differences, among other layers of experience. and identity,” said Dittmar Newsweek.

But political strategist Lake argues that with a clear divide between the two parties over abortion access, even “swing suburban women” find the Republican-led states’ tough abortion bans “disqualifying.” “.

“You want to ban certain contraceptives, you want to interview women who miscarry, you want to arrest women and jail doctors and nurses,” Lake said. “You’ve gone too far, and this is a breakup.”