There was a gender gap in 2014, but not the one Democrats were banking on.
Public Opinion Strategies’ election night survey showed a mere six point differential on the congressional generic ballot among women – 46% GOP/52% Democrat. And Republicans won white women by an eight point margin (53% GOP/45% Dem).
The real story is the Democrats total failure to come close with men, losing the generic vote by 20 points (59% GOP/39% Dem). TWENTY points. This exceeds the vaunted gender gap of the 2012 elections.
Generic Congressional Ballot (GOP-Dem)
Many Democrat campaigns made the strategic decision to run their campaigns to women, focusing on abortion, contraception, etc. So how did that work out?
Among women voters, just 6% said that War-on-Women’s issue was the most important issue in deciding how they would vote. It fell well behind other issues:
Perhaps, the most striking example of the limitations of the War-on-Women style campaign in 2014 was waged in Colorado’s U.S. Senate race. Despite the Udall campaign’s effort to cast the campaign almost exclusively around women’s rights, according to exit polls Cory Gardner still managed to win 30% of voters who believe that abortion should be legal and nearly a third (32%) of voters who cast their ballot against the personhood amendment.
Cory Gardner ran and won on an issue set bigger and more relevant to the electorate. Forty-three percent (43%) of Colorado voters cited “the economy” as the most important issue facing the country, and Gardner won these voters 50%-42%. Notably, Gardner also prevailed among foreign policy voters (56%-41%), illegal immigration voters (61%-33%), and 79% of voters who disapprove of Obama’s job performance.
I’ve heard the argument some have tried to make that without the Democrat focus on the war on women the result of the election could have actually been worse for Democrats. That’s a more difficult argument to make and to follow. It was bad for Democrats. Sugar-coating failed leadership and inadequate policy prescriptions doesn’t make it any better.
And, while Democrats failed to attract female voters with the one-issue ploy, they also completely abandoned men. Thirty percent (30%) of men said the economy and jobs was their top issue. And the other single-issue gambit – touting a minimum wage increase – clearly did little to address their top-of-mind concern.
Without a doubt, Republicans should continue to be mindful of their gender problem. We did not perform as well as 2010 and we’re a long way off from assuming a comfort level with women voters. But the gender gap is a two-way street, and Democrats are getting run over by men.