The political returns from attacking access to contraception are in. Women don’t seem to like it.
While Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney hasn’t led the charge against the Obama Administration’s proposed new federal rules that require an insurance carrier to provide birth control free of charge to women, he certainly echoed the theme that the provisions are an assault on religious liberty, while steering clear of making it a central issue on the campaign.
Unfortunately for him, it seems he’s still suffered a precipitous drop in support among women voters.
Quinnipiac University released new numbers on Wednesday that showed a troubling trend for the former governor. In three months, he’d gone from a positive split on favorability with women (33 - 30) to a substantially negative one (30 - 45) in Quinnipiac’s numbers.
The pollster also asked whether “Mitt Romney cares about the needs and problems of women or not?” while asking the same about President Obama. Obama did very well on the question, with 64 percent of all voters saying he does and 28 saying he does not, nearly exactly the same as the split amongst women themselves. Romney earned a 41 - 41 split on the question from all voters, while only 34 percent of women said that he does care about their needs and problems, with 46 percent saying he does not.
Check out the chart below of the widening gap when it comes to candidate favorability amongst women. It was essentially even, with a slight advantage to Obama, until the Republican primary process began and the recent debate over contraception.
And yet, the new Quinnipiac numbers show Romney coming within two points of Obama in a national matchup, 46 - 44, with the President’s lead essentially built on having a slightly bigger advantage with women as Romney does with men. Even with these divisions, says Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, partisans of all types will recede into their corners come November.
“Republicans are going to vote against President Obama this year — he’s a turnout vehicle,” Brown told TPM. On national favorability, Brown said Romney’s not doing very well at the moment, and he’ll run better with women than some of the more conservative candidates. “But at this point, national polls follow state results. If Romney wins in Michigan and Arizona, his numbers will go up.”
Democratic pollster and President of Momentum Analysis, Margie Omero, doesn’t disagree that the 2012 race will be difficult for her side, even if the current state of the Republican race is causing problems for the GOP. “We shouldn’t expect a race to change based on a week or two of back and forth on women’s issues,” she told TPM. But on the contraception debate, she said the whole attack is a bit puzzling. “I don’t know where the they think the electoral advantage is on this. These are things that have been decided a long time ago.”
So why are Romney’s numbers with women dropping, even though he hasn’t been front and center in the recent debates? It’s association, said Oremo. “Romney may not be leading the charge, but he’s not telling people to back off,” she said.
The TPM Poll Average of an Obama—Romney matchup over the same time period.
Kyle is the Editor of TPM Media’s PollTracker. He graduated from Beloit College (WI) and began working in politics before getting an M.A. in magazine journalism from New York University, where he interned at TPM and the website of The New Yorker.