Winning Women: What Republicans Can Do in 2014

In our on-going effort to better understand key electoral sub-groups, Public Opinion Strategies commissioned a national survey of women voters on May 21-30, 2014. The survey was designed to provide a perspective on how the Republican Party and its candidates can productively move to engage women voters on issues they care about.   It reflects an effort to move ahead pro-actively instead of reactively, positively instead of negatively, building instead of slipping.

The survey was conducted online among 512 likely female voters. This is the third in a series of posts from this survey.


Taking Back Control

One of the more subtle consequences of an overly-active federal government is the psychologically devastating impact of individuals simply losing control over their own lives. In focus groups even just a couple of years ago, women were angry and fiercely debated policy issues and candidates. There was passion in the 2012 elections. This year is different … there is more of a feeling of hopeless resignation, a shrugging of shoulders instead of wagging fingers.

Women still had hope in 2012. They said if we give Obama another chance maybe he’ll come through for us. The result has been sadly disappointing for many women, 53% of whom now say they disapprove of the President’s job performance.

The health care roll-out and the ensuing months of chaos led to a very clear understanding that this was not what they were promised was the turning point.

While the economy offers Republicans an opportunity to re-position themselves among women now and for the long term, health care is absolutely a part of the electoral equation this cycle. It is very closely intertwined with the general economic anxiety many women voters feel today and a lack of control over their own financial destiny.

A survey of women voters conducted in January found that 52% of women opposed the new health care law. Fifty-one percent (51%) believe the law is having a negative impact on our nation’s health care system.* Little has changed over the course of this year. In the April NBC/Wall Street Journal survey just 38% of women felt Obamacare is a good idea while 42% said it is a bad idea.

In our most recent survey of women voters, 74% of women say they are more likely to vote for a Republican candidate who says: women should have more control over their health care decisions, not less.

It’s the simplest statement we tested in the survey … and got the highest, strongest level of support. In fact, it unites voters across party lines – 77% of Republicans, 72% of Independents, and 71% of Democratic women are more likely to vote for a GOP candidate who says women should have more control, not less.

What women are finding is the utter lack of control they have under the new health care regime. Most notably, is the feeling that costs are spiraling out of their control. Below are some excerpts from women in focus groups talking about the financially devastating impact of Obamacare:

“We have health insurance through my husband’s employer until next year and that’s only because they were exempt through the union. He got a $600 raise per month this year, but the health insurance went up $700 a month, so his raise was eaten up by that.”

“My husband works for Disney. Disney pays 80% of our premiums. Our premiums before were like $3,000 a year. Now through the Obamacare, we are paying $7,000 a year and the deductibles, our deductibles, were $1,500 for a family of four, now they are $6,000.”

It speaks to a general lack of control women feel in their lives today. Seventy-one percent (71%) of women believe that no matter how hard they work it is impossible to get ahead.*  So much of life is beyond their control, and health care is now just one more aspect.   Importantly, real Americans tell these stories better than any politician could, and it is these personal narratives of drama and disappointment that have had a searing impact on the hearts and minds of female voters.

Women may not be able to articulate what a good health care system looks like or the policy elements that would make it better. But what they do know is … what we have now isn’t working and they want to take back control.

*Data from a telephone survey of 800 women conducted January 8-13, 2014 on behalf of the Congressional Institute.

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