New Survey Results of OH Women Voters

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New survey research finds the priorities of the single most important voting demographic going into the 2016 presidential elections

Arlington, Va – The GOPAC Education Fund and American Freedom Builders announced the results of survey research with 500 Female Ohio Registered Voters conducted July 27-28, 2015 by Kristen Anderson, Co-Founder and Partner of Echelon Insights.

“Ohio holds the keys to the White House. No Republican has ever been elected to the presidency without winning Ohio, while no Democrat has been elected without carrying the Buckeye State since 1960. In today’s political environment, this means Republicans must earn more of the women’s vote than in the recent past while Democrats cannot afford to lose votes from a key part of their coalition,” said American Freedom Builders President John McClelland.

“Conservatives can earn a greater percentage of support amongst female voters. However, women must hear candidates offering ideas on the priorities important to them. The research is clear that a winning agenda for conservatives centers on giving people more control over their careers, providing greater security and improving essential government services,” added GOPAC Chairman David Avella.

Voters said, “lowering taxes” is the #1 way to help women when asked to rate a series of policy proposals on a scale of 0-10, with 0 meaning “would not help me at all” and 10 meaning “would be extremely helpful to me.”

The ratings are as follows:

  • Lower taxes 8.28
  • More affordable health care 8.06
  • Better public schools 8.05
  • Less government debt 7.82
  • Lower cost of college 7.44
  • More secure border 7.42
  • Lower unemployment 6.94
  • Higher minimum wage 6.43
  • Making it easier to run a business 6.37
  • More paid leave from work 6.17

The research also found:

  • 74% of women strongly agree that we should improve programs that give people jobs skills and training in an affordable way that doesn’t require taking out lots of student loans.
  • 70% strongly agree that we need to secure the border, defund “sanctuary cities” and enforce laws requiring deportation of violent offenders who are here illegally.
  • 83% agree that we should fix the health care law and roll back some of its regulations to give people better care and more affordable health insurance options.
  • 85% agree that we should preserve but appropriately adjust costly programs, like Medicaid, that provide health care for those in need.
  • 84% agree that we should reform our nation’s anti-poverty programs so that people who need temporary help can get aid from community groups rather than through federal bureaucracy.
  • Lastly, 81% agree that we should increase child tax credits so that parents can have extra income to help with childcare or in case one parent wants to stay home.

Background/Overview

The “gender gap” is not a new phenomenon in electoral politics, but it certainly plays a large role in whether or not conservatives have the ability to govern. In the last five presidential elections, Republicans have lost female voters each time, and by double digit margins in four out of the five contests. With the prospect of the first female major party presidential nominee on the horizon, conservatives need to make it a serious priority to put forward an agenda that can resonate with female voters.

We chose to study women in Ohio to begin to answer the question: what do women want to hear about from political leaders? In this survey, we attempted to identify what an agenda might look like. We examined economic proposals, social programs, and national security issues to see what female voters want to see addressed, and evaluated a number of talking points preferred by right-of-center leaders and luminaries.

Female voters are not a single, uniform voting block; the great diversity of life experiences, career paths, family arrangements and economic statuses means that broadly declaring “what women want” to be a difficult proposition.

Nonetheless, in our research, we uncovered a number of key themes that can give right-of-center policymakers an opportunity to build bridges and expand their coalitions to include more women. At the same time, we highlighted areas of potential concern that conservatives need to bear in mind as they advocate for center-right ideas.

This memo briefly summarizes the topline findings from the survey.

Key Findings

The issues that matter most: taxes, health care, education. We presented respondents with ten different items and asked how helpful each one would be in the respondent’s life. Respondents rated each item on a scale of 0-10, with 10 meaning “would be extremely helpful to me.” The top rated items were lower taxes (8.28), more affordable health care (8.06), and better public schools (8.05).

  • Both Democratic and Independent women shared the same top three priorities.
  • For Republican women, the top three items varied slightly. Lower taxes (8.56) were the clear top item, followed by less government debt (8.45) and a more secure border (8.41).
  • The youngest women surveyed, those under age 30, overwhelmingly noted educational items as being most helpful to them. Better public schools (9.03) and lower cost of college (8.59) topped their list.
  • While “making it easier to run a business” was one of the lowest ranked items, it actually was a fairly high priority for women under age 30, who gave it an overall rating of 7.56 – tied with “more affordable health care”
  • Senior women, those aged 65 and older, felt they would be most helped by more affordable health care (8.28) and a more secure border (8.15).
  • The bottom three items overall were drawn from often heard talking points on the left and the right: higher minimum wage (6.43), making it easier to start a business (6.37), and more paid leave from work (6.17).

The top four messages tested emphasized improved security and greater control over one’s own economic situation. While most messages tested had very high levels of agreement, the intensity of that agreement varied significantly between messages and highlighted areas where conservatives can touch on the most relevant issues.

  • Messages that focused on more affordable jobs training and making it easier for someone to have a flexible career resonated far more than a message about “supporting job creators.”
    • Some 74 percent of respondents strongly agreed that “We should improve programs that give people jobs skills and training in an affordable way that doesn’t require taking out lots of student loans,” making it the message with the highest level of strong agreement out of the entire survey. Particularly with young women, who are so focused on the issue of education, putting forward center-right ideas on better post-secondary education is absolutely key.
    • How conservatives talk about supporting entrepreneurs dramatically affects reaction to our message. The message that says “We should make it simpler and easier for Americans to start up small businesses or work for themselves from home” sees 64 percent of respondents saying they strongly agree, while only 46 percent strongly agree that “We should support job creators, not punish them with higher taxes and more regulation.”
  • Among the top four messages were two messages about security: border security and cyber security.
    • ​Given the recent OPM hacking issue, the Sony Pictures hack, and the controversy over the security of Secretary Clinton’s personal email server, cybersecurity is a hot topic. It comes as no surprise then that 72 percent of respondents strongly agree “We should dramatically increase our nation’s cybersecurity efforts to prevent against further hacks and security breaches that expose personal data.”
    • Furthermore, border security remains a key concern, with “sanctuary cities” being a part of the news in recent weeks under tragic circumstances. 70 percent of respondents strongly agree “We should secure the border, defund “sanctuary cities” and enforce laws requiring deportation of violent offenders who are here illegally.”

On issues of gender discrimination and pay equity, conservatives should tread carefully. Only a quarter of women (26 percent) surveyed think that the Democratic Party focuses too much on the issue of gender discrimination; 41 percent think the focus is appropriate and another 16 percent wish they would focus even more on the issue.

  • Women are divided on this question very sharply by party, as one might expect. Some 46 percent of Republican women think that Democrats are too focused on this issue. However, only 37 percent of Independent women think Democrats are too focused on gender discrimination, while a combined 43 percent think Democrats are right on or need to focus even more on the issue.
  • A majority of Ohio women – 55 percent – think “We need new laws addressing equal pay for women in order to truly combat gender discrimination.” Only 37 percent of Ohio female voters surveyed agree with the message that “We need to enforce existing laws that prohibit gender discrimination in the workplace, rather than creating more regulations and politicizing the issue.”
    • However, there are also sharp partisan divides here; while three-quarters of Democratic women think new laws are needed, very slim majorities of Republican (53 percent) and Independent (52 percent) women think that better enforcement of existing laws is preferable.

More information on the organizations can be found at www.gopaceducate.org and www.americanfreedombuilders.com as well as following on Twitter: @GOPACEdu and @AFBLive

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