A new poll of likely voters in 12 Senate battleground states suggests a populist economic message and focus on women’s health issues could help Democrats improve their standing with unmarried women voters in advance of the midterm elections.
The poll was conducted by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg's Democracy Corps in collaboration with Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund, which focuses on increasing participation among unmarried women voters.
It found that Democratic candidates are currently underperforming with unmarried women voters, beating Republicans among the crucial demographic by just 11 points, compared to a 20-point gap in the 2010 midterms. But the poll also gave Democrats suggestions for messages that are most likely to resonate with this voting bloc.
“The movement in the races and in the states is really about the movement of unmarried women … based on hearing an economic agenda that resonates with their lives,” said Page Gardner, the founder of Women's Voices Women Vote. The "in your shoes" economic message that connected with unmarried women included "finally helping mothers in the work place and making sure those at the top are paying their fair share and, most importantly, a critique of Republicans for their policies that are hurting seniors and women," according to a release about the poll .
After being exposed to this Democratic message and other Republican messaging, which the pollsters say are of equal strength, unmarried women became more likely to say they would vote for the Democratic candidate, giving Democrats the same sizable edge as in 2010 — when the party still lost 63 House seats and six Senate seats.
Asked why Democrats are currently underperforming with unmarried women, Greenberg speculated they are frustrated with economic policies and that Democratic messaging has not yet connected with these voters.
“I’m sure there’s some disappointment. [Obama’s] approval rating from unmarried women was not that high,” Greenberg said. But, he continued, "the fact is that Democrats have not been speaking to them." Greenberg noted he thinks Democrats generally understand the importance of unmarried women voters and, moving forward, will focus on connecting with them.
The poll also suggested Democrats could highlight their opposition to the Supreme Court's recent Hobby Lobby ruling to motivate unmarried women, especially if used as part of a broader attack on Republicans' positions on women's health.
“Economic populism and women’s health are both strong … they shift the vote," Greenberg said.
The poll sampled 1,000 people who had voted in either 2006 or 2010 and used the names of candidates in the individual battleground states. The 12 states tested were Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina and West Virginia. Democrats are defending all but two.