The Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson ruling in June, which ended the constitutional right to abortion, sparked intense national backlash, particularly among women.
The Democratic Party gambled that, by honing in on this potent issue ahead of the midterms, they could galvanize female voters and offset the strong political headwinds the party was facing vis-à-vis high inflation, rising crime and anti-incumbent historical trends.
As for whether or not the Democratic Party’s bet on the female vote ultimately paid off, the answer is both yes and no. (RELATED: KELSEY BOLAR: Dear GOP: Don’t Attack Women For How They Vote, Which Democrats Love To Do)
On one hand, Democratic messaging on reproductive rights helped the party win in swing-states where abortion access was being actively threatened — most notably in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Arizona — based on an overperformance with female voters.
In Michigan, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer handily defeated her Republican challenger, Tudor Dixon, who opposed abortion even in cases of rape and incest. Democrats also won down-ballot races against anti-abortion Republicans, flipping control of the state legislature and secured the passage of a ballot measure codifying abortion rights.
Exit poll data suggests that the blue-wave in Michigan was driven by women. Whitmer won 62% of the female vote this year, compared to Joe Biden’s 57% in the 2020 presidential election, and the number of women registering to vote surged over the summer.
Moreover, Whitmer won 56% of Independent women, one of the primary groups Democrats were courting with their abortion rights messaging, while in 2018, Whitmer only received 50% of the Independent female vote.
Pennsylvania was a similar success story for Democrats. Attorney General Josh Shapiro soundly defeated his far-right anti-abortion opponent, Doug Mastriano, in the gubernatorial election; in the Senate race, Democrat John Fetterman comfortably beat Mehmet Oz, who frequently struggled to articulate his stance on the issue.
In terms of the female vote, exit polls find that both Shapiro (63%) and Fetterman (57%) outperformed Joe Biden’s 2020 vote share (55%). This was also the case with Independent women: Joe Biden won 58% of Independent women in 2020, while Shapiro won 69% this year, and Fetterman garnered 64%.
In Arizona, Democratic candidates for governor and Senate defeated their anti-abortion Republican challengers. In the Senate race, exit polls show incumbent Democrat Mark Kelly winning with 55% of the female vote, including 55% of suburban women, outperforming his own 2020 margins, when he won women by 52% overall, and lost suburban women with 48% of the vote.
However, Democratic candidates fared less well with female voters in states — even in blue states — where abortion rights and access were not “on the ballot,” so to speak, and the party also underperformed its 2018 and 2020 House popular vote margins with women.
While Democrats won a 53% majority of the female vote in House races this year, per exit polls, they won 57% of the female vote in 2020 and 59% in 2018. Likewise, 54% of Independent women voted for Democrats in congressional contests this year, compared to 58% in 2020 and 56% in 2018.
In Florida, a 15-week abortion ban, which is one of the less restrictive bans imposed by a Republican-led state, was already codified into law earlier this year. Gov. Ron DeSantis won reelection with a majority of the female vote (53%), while in 2020, Joe Biden won women by 51%. Remarkably, DeSantis won 60% of Latina women this year — a group that Joe Biden won in 2020 (53%) and DeSantis widely lost in 2018 (41%).
Clearly, this year was not a repeat of 2018, when women voted for Democrats in record-high numbers nationwide to oppose the Trump presidency.
While trends with the female vote were much more localized in 2022 than in 2018, Democrats were still able to effectively message on the abortion issue and turn out women in some of this year’s most competitive and decisive races.
Carly Cooperman is a pollster and partner with the public opinion company Schoen Cooperman Research based in New York. She is the coauthor of the book, “America: Unite or Die.” Follow her on Twitter @carlycooperman.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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