Women voters continue to play outsized role
While the 2014 electorate was largely similar to that of 2010, there is a notable exception. Democrats gained ground with women. In 2010, women voted for Republicans by a 1-point margin, while they voted for Democrats in 2014 by a 5-point margin (52% to 47%). This represents a net swing of 6-points to Democrats among women – likely a product of Democrats being more focused on reaching out to women voters and talking to them about issues like access to affordable birth control, protecting safe and legal abortion, and equal pay, among others. Gains with women did not come at the expense of a worse performance among men – Republicans won men by 14 points this year, just as they did in 2010. African Americans and Latino women continue to strongly support Democrats at the ballot box by the widest margins, with African-American women voting for Democrats 91-8, and Latinas voting with Democrats 67-31.
In specific races where differences on women’s issues were made clear, women played a critical role in Democrats’ victories or in keeping the races competitive.
- Senator Jeanne Shaheen won women by 19 points and lost men by 11.
- In Michigan, Gary Peters won women by 22 points, African-American women by 87 points, and single women by 50 points.
- In North Carolina, where Kay Hagan lost narrowly to Thom Tillis, who moderated his stance on access to birth control and other women’s health issues, Hagan won by 12 points among women, by 95 points among African-American women, and by 32 points with single women.
- In Florida, African-American women were 8% of the electorate, and Charlie Crist won them 84-13; Latinas were 6% of the electorate, and Crist won them 59-35.
Many Republicans won by running away from their anti-women’s record
In several key races, Republicans won by significantly moderating their positions on women’s health and disavowing their own records. Because of this moderation, about 1/3 of voters who support access to abortion voted for Republicans this year, and these voters will expect their elected officials to govern as moderates, and keep the government out of women’s personal health care decisions.
In Colorado, for example, 6 in 10 Coloradans support access to safe, legal abortion.
Of those who believe abortion should be legal in most cases, 42 percent voted for Cory Gardner, who went to great lengths to moderate his positions on women’s health – even investing in TV ads and mail to claim he supports expanding women’s access to birth control, and reversing his long-held support for personhood measures. Combined, Gardner and other Republican candidates and committees across the country spent more than $32 million on TV ads related to women’s health – almost all of which declared their support for women’s health care access.
You can see our video highlighting some of these ads here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBATMItiYZ4&feature=youtu.be
Broad, national consensus on abortion access
When voters in Colorado and North Dakota were given the opportunity to directly express their views on so-called “personhood” amendments that could ban abortion, they rejected them overwhelmingly. In fact, Democrats defeated a key state house sponsor of the North Dakota personhood legislation, as well as one of the bill’s most outspoken advocates.
According to the media's exit poll of the 2014 electorate, broad support exists for abortion in all or most cases. Even in an electorate closely tracking 2010’s, almost a quarter of Republicans support legal abortion "in all cases."
In sum, this election proved that you can no longer compete in statewide races if you campaign as an anti-abortion candidate, that a clear majority of Americans (even in a smaller, midterm electorate and in anti-abortion states such as North Dakota) supports keeping abortion legal in all or most cases, and that even in a Republican wave election, women will favor the candidates who better support their health care priorities.