Swinging Suburban Women

For a host of reasons, this was a Year of the Woman in American life.  There was an all-time record 234 women running for Congress, 182 Democratic women and 52 Republican women. There will be 88 new Members in the House of Representatives, 35 of them are women. More women ran and won state legislative seats across the country, too.

The Year of the Woman was undoubtedly more successful on the Democrat side of the aisle.  Republicans elected only one new female Republican Member of Congress.  And the numbers of Republican women holding legislative seats dwindled relative to the number of Democrat women.

Female voters this year were unreceptive to the GOP pitch.  The gender gap on election day was bigger than it has ever been – a net 23 points – in congressional preference according to exit polls dating back to 2006.  Women who live in the suburbs are an important part of the story.

Historically, Republicans have been very competitive – even winning – among suburban women.  2018 was markedly different.  Not since 2008 have we seen a deficit for Republicans this large among this sub-group.

Clearly, there is considerable volatility among suburban women.  They don’t just represent a problem for Republicans.  As the data from 2010 indicates, Democrats have not been immune from the judgement of these women.

The swings in the suburbs come largely among those who consider themselves Independent.  There was not an inordinate amount of defection among Republicans (7{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} voting Democrat) and certainly very little among Democrats (2{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} voting Republican).  But by a whopping 2-to-1 margin, Republicans got shellacked among Independent suburban women.Many of these women wanted to send a message with their vote – Republicans wanted to show their support for the President, while a huge number of Democratic women wanted to do nothing more than express their opposition.  Independent women were less inclined to agree their vote meant something – but for those who did want to say something, it was not in support for the President.

Republicans maintained a slim advantage among married women and performed better among those without a college degree.  However, college-educated women firmly rejected the Republican option, as did non-married women.

Health care meant a lot to suburban women – nearly one quarter said it was the most important issue in deciding how to vote.  And, when health care was their number one issue, Republicans were demolished on the ballot.

Republicans had their own big advantages among the women for whom immigration and the economy were the most important issues, but not enough to overcome the primacy of health care as an election issue and the huge disadvantage for Republicans on this issue.

NOTE: All data included is from Public Opinion Strategies Election Night Surveys.



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