Given his surging poll numbers and corresponding media attention, I was sure that GOP Presidential candidate Rick Santorum was alienating women at a furious pace, with his out of the mainstream proclamations that contraception is “bad for women” and against insurance coverage for prenatal testing. These are not Democratic or Republican issues, so surely even GOP women would be alarmed that a candidate for President was talking about returning us to an era when women would not benefit from science that can detect fetal illness or abnormality or allow a woman to choose when and how often to have children, allowing for the possibility of pursuing an education and career.
The first poll I looked at was discouraging. According to the Ohio Poll, conducted from February 16 to 26, women who planned to vote in Ohio’s GOP primary were actually more inclined to support Santorum over the rest of the field than men.
|GOP men:||Santorum 33 – Romney 28|
|GOP women:||Santorum 42 – Romney 23|
I was shocked. Are GOP women voters really so traditional that they would like to have health care treatments denied and to return to their place at home as caregiver to large broods?
The next poll I looked at was a Quinnipiac survey conducted for four days beginning February 23, after Santorum made his nationally-publicized remarks about prenatal testing, and nearly a week after he surpassed Romney in most national polls. It found that GOP women were less likely than their male counterparts to support Santorum.
|GOP men:||Santorum 38 – Romney 25|
|GOP women:||Santorum 34 – Romney 33|
Unsure what to make of these contradictory results, I was happy to see one more poll released this week that offered demographic crosstabs. Public Policy Polling (PPP) conducted a survey of likely GOP primary voters in Ohio this past weekend (March 3 and 4). The results showed even more of a gender gap than in the Quinnipiac poll from a week earlier:
|GOP men:||Santorum 37 – Romney 31|
|GOP women:||Romney 42 – Santorum 34|
In fact, the PPP poll found that women who voted early were more likely to support Santorum than those who have waited to vote on election day. This finding—and the trend of the three polls conducted over the past month—appears clear. As time more becomes known about Santorum and his views, women—even right-wing women voting in a GOP primary—are more likely to move away from Santorum and toward Romney.
The news isn’t great for Romney. In the most recent PPP poll, he has a 33% unfavorable rating among women (men dislike him even more, with 46% disapproving). In the last national poll for which demographic crosstabs are available, Quinnipiac found a gender gap favoring the President:
|Men:||Romney 47 – Obama 43|
|Women:||Obama 49 – Romney 41|
Fortunately for our side, women form a majority of voters, and the overall poll shows Obama leading Romney 46 to 44.
And that was two weeks ago. The longer this primary campaign drags out, and the more crazy things Rick Santorum or Rush Limbaugh say that Romney has to embrace (Romney now says he is for a law granting personhood to fertilized eggs, for example), the worse it will be for Romney in the fall.
The takeaway for me is that every time the right pops up with a position that is anti-women, we all need to make sure to tell our family, friends and neighbors. Some people aren’t tuned into what appears to be shaping up as a war on women. National attention to issues like the Komen foundation’s attack on Planned Parenthood and Rush Limbaugh’s remarks about women who use birth control has energized women in my social media circles who never talk about or pay attention to politics. Before those women tune back out, let’s make sure they know all the crazy positions held by the GOP candidates and that it matters if we elect women, or men who believe in the advancement of women, to the Ohio Statehouse.