Resurgent Republic, the public opinion survey group organized by former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie, recently sponsored four focus groups seeking to find out what suburban women who voted for Obama in 2008 but are undecided about how they are going to vote in 2012 are thinking.
It's a critical vote bloc, one that could determine the outcome of the election or at least whether or not the victor has a mandate from the American people. In 2008, even while Arizona Sen. John McCain was winning among white women, 53 percent to 47 percent, Barack Obama carried women voters over all by an even more substantial margin, 56 percent to 43 percent.
In 2010, women went with the Republicans, just barely, 49 percent to 48 percent, as the GOP won back control of the U.S. House of Representatives, and picked up governorships and state legislative seats all across the country.
"Recent public polling shows President Obama has somewhat strengthened his standing among this demographic," Resurgent Republic said, "an early sign that the women vote this November will be competitive—especially among Suburban Women voters like those in our groups. As Obama voters, these Suburban Women represent a narrow subset of Independents at large and are most likely Obama's last line of electoral defense."
- Even in states with relatively low unemployment (below 6 percent), these Suburban Women voters remain disturbed and nervous about the state of the economy.
- While they acknowledge the national unemployment rate is slowly improving, they feel there is a long way to go in terms of quality, family-supporting jobs and believe the underemployment figures more accurately describe the economic climate.
- In evaluating Obama, they are more likely to say he hasn't had enough time or that the economic problems were more severe than he realized than to solely blame the President.
- The Suburban Women groups expressed their most hesitation with President Obama when considering the totality of economic figures ranging from when he took office to today.
Interestingly, women seem to agree that the recent national debate over the Obamacare mandate that employer-provided health insurance include coverage for birth control methods including sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs was more about women's health than it was about religious liberties. "When this topic was raised," Resurgent Republic said in its analysis of the data, "their immediate response was to defend contraception coverage and women's rights. It is also worth noting that some thought the administration's self-labeled compromise assuaged the Catholic Church's objections."
In focus groups where Catholics were present in greater numbers, "the respondents were split on the issue when discussed in terms of freedom of religion and whether or not the federal government should compel a religious organization to do something contrary to their beliefs."
Both parties, it seems, need to sharpen their messages to women voters though, for now, Obama seems to have the upper hand.
- See Mary Kate Cary's Five Ways the GOP Can Woo Women
- Check out U.S. News Weekly: an insiders guide to politics and policy.
- Follow the Thomas Jefferson Street blog on Twitter at @TJSBlog.
Corrected 3/26/2012: The headline of a previous version of this article misattributed the source of the data it discusses. The data was the result of a study done with focus groups.