Female independent voters may be the ultimate swing voting group. These voters are open to supporting candidates of any party, and are likely to turn out on Election Day. This makes them a key target audience for any competitive campaign. A new poll conducted by Douglas E. Schoen, LLC and commissioned by Independent Women’s Voice (IWV), which is a non-partisan, non-profit group, gauges the current mood and convictions of political independents. The responses from female independents are particularly telling: they indicate that America is ready for a significant change in political leadership.
Given what we know from other polls, it’s no surprise that political independents are disgusted with Washington’s current leadership and concerned about the country’s future. In the IWV survey, 73 percent of female independents said the country was on the “wrong track,” while just 12 percent thought we were headed in the right direction. That’s more pessimistic than men (who were 66 percent wrong track, 25 percent right track).
By a three-to-one ratio, these women thought the political process has gotten worse rather than better in recent years. When asked how often the federal government does what they would like it to do, 61 percent of women said “rarely” or “never.” Just seven percent said “mostly.” Eight in ten characterized Washington’s leadership as “out of touch” with Americans like them.
Republicans had a 10 percentage point edge over Democrats among those female independents who had made up their minds about who to vote for in the upcoming Congressional election (24 to 14 percent), but most (41 percent) were still undecided. Many may see this as good news for Democrats: in spite of all the bad news in recent polls, a large portion of this key voting bloc remains up for grabs. Yet women’s attitudes toward the issues and recent policy battles suggest that Democratic candidates will have an uphill battle winning these women over.
Independent women believe our government has reached too fast and too far into the lives of individual Americans and into the economy. Eighty percent of women said they were “concerned” about the growing size and scope of our federal government. Fifty-five percent were “very concerned.” An almost unanimous 95 percent of women were “concerned” about the level of government spending, with 69 percent “very concerned.” Eight in ten women were concerned (59 percent very concerned) about increasing levels of taxation.
Independent women overwhelmingly think that the cure to our economic problems lies in less government, not more. Just five percent said that “increasing spending” would help most with a national recovery, compared to 35 percent who thought cutting spending would be best and 23 percent who thought cutting taxes would be best.
While nearly six in ten women (59 percent) support the concept of government providing a safety net for those in need, half believe that current social welfare programs cover too many people. More than two-thirds (67 percent) said they feel less secure as government expands its role in providing health care and other social services, rather than more secure.
Health care was on the top of these women’s minds. Eighty percent said they were concerned (67 very concerned) about the federal government taking over health care. Seventy-seven percent said that support for repealing and replacing the health care law would be “important” for determining their vote this November.
Women don’t just feel that our too-big government costs too much and hampers prosperity. Their responses suggest a fundamental belief that our super-sized government threatens our very way of life. Nearly two-thirds of women (64 percent) think that they are losing personal freedoms due to government expansion.
These responses show that November won’t simply be another “throw this set of bums out,” anti-incumbent election. Something larger is going on. Americans are concerned about the direction of our country—not just in terms of our economic prospects, but in terms of our basic loss of freedom. Independent women are adamant in their desire for a smaller, less intrusive government. If these attitudes persist, this fall will witness not just a wave but a tsunami that permanently reshapes the land beneath it.
Carrie Lukas is Vice President for Policy and Economics at the Independent Women’s Forum. Hers is the third in IWF’s fall op-ed series, Stiletto Nation, which deals with women’s issues. You can read the first article in the series here and the second article here.