Breakthrough Messages for Women Voters (2012)

Executive Summary

The statistics are widely reported: Women make up only 17 percent of Congress but are over 50 percent of the U.S. population. Even President Barack Obama believes Congress would get more done if there were more women in Congress, saying, “I think it’s fair to say: That is almost guaranteed.”

On behalf of the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, Lake Research Partners recently conducted a poll among 1000 likely voters in key states, with an oversample of 200 young women (age 18-35)* voters, which is the first in-depth look at younger women responding to messages about women candidates. Designed to examine voters’ attitudes toward women candidates and elected officials on both sides of party lines, this poll explores whether voters agree with the President and their beliefs about the disparities in leadership between women and men.

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  1. To motivate voters, including young women voters, to vote for women candidates, it is best to focus on how women elected officials are in touch with real life. This includes some kitchen-table economic issues like the price of food, and emphasizing how Congress needs to be more diverse in gender, racial, and age representation to reflect the actual population of the U.S.
  2. In the current political environment, the perception that women candidates are more in touch is a huge asset.
  3. Voters sense that there are not enough women currently in office and the nation would be better governed if there were more women in office than there are today.
  4. At the same time, traditional messages of women governing with better priorities and less partisanship do not work.
  5. As we have seen in the past, the strongest predictor of voting for a woman is the perception that women govern differently than men. Today, voters are divided on this, but these messages move voters, especially younger women, in that direction.
  6. A woman candidate being in touch is the best frame. When it comes to priorities, birth control and contraception engages women voters, especially younger women voters.
    Women have a clear advantage on the issues of birth control and women’s health.

*These results are based on a telephone survey of 1000 likely voters in the following states: MA, HI, MO, NV, MI, WI, NH, CT, MN, VA, TX, OH, and OK, with an oversample of 200 women ages 18 to 34. This survey was conducted March 29 – April 9, 2012. There is a sample of error of +/-3.1%.