Originally Published: July 26, 2018 8:09 p.m.
In case national Republicans needed another reminder of the power of women at the ballot box, pollsters at Quinnipiac University just handed it to them.
With the November midterms still three months away, women voters prefer Democrats by a nearly 2-1 margin (57-32 percent) according to a poll released Wednesday, July 25, by the Hamden, Connecticut-based school. Democrats have an overall 51-39 percent generic ballot lead in the poll.
That edge is more significant than it is for male voters, who narrowly split 46-44 percent for Republicans, the poll found.
Nationwide, Democrats hold an average 7.8 percent lead on the generic ballot, according to the RealClear Politics polling average.
“Although the midterm elections are more than three months away, Democrats, who are hoping to retake control of the U.S. House of Representatives, will be cheered by their double-digit lead on the so-called generic ballot,” Quinnipiac pollster Peter Brown said in a statement.
Meanwhile, white voters split 46-45 percent for Democrats, while black voters went 78-16 percent to Democrats. Hispanic voters backed Dems 66-23 percent, pollsters found.
Crucially, however, independent voters, who helped hand President Donald Trump the White House in 2016, went 50-33 percent for Democrats. That’s a broader margin than Trump’s 46-42 national advantage two years ago.
Concerns over access to reproductive rights and President Trump’s treatment of women have pushed women to the polls this year, and, in many cases, to run for office themselves. Other issues, such as school safety, GOP attacks on Obamacare, and the economy and taxes have also been critical motivators.
In Pennsylvania, a Rust Belt state that Trump carried by 44,000 votes in 2016, women make up the majority of candidates in a half-dozen, key U.S. House races. Democrats need to flip about two-dozen seats to retake control of the House in the fall.
Polling in those matchups has been scarce, but in one important race, the 17th District in western Pennsylvania, Democratic U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb led Republican Rep. Keith Rothfus by double-digits in a new Monmouth University poll. The contest is a rare one pitting incumbent against incumbent in a redrawn district.
Nearly two-thirds of female respondents (64 percent) to the Quinnipiac poll say they believe abortion should be legal in all, or most cases, compared with 62 percent of male respondents. Overall, 54 percent of respondents to the poll said abortion should be legal in all, or most, cases.
And while clear majorities of both male and female respondents said they think it’s unlikely that Roe v. Wade will be overturned in the coming years, more than two-thirds of respondents of both genders said that would be a bad thing.
Perhaps because of that, a plurality of women respondents (48 percent) believe Trump’s high court nominee, federal Judge Brett Kavanaugh, will make the court too conservative. And 46 percent of women believe Kavanaugh should be denied confirmation, pollsters found.
The Quinnipiac poll echoes an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Tuesday in which a record 71 percent of American voters believe that Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that established the legal right to abortion, should not be overturned. Just 23 percent said the ruling should be reversed.
The renewed national debate over abortion rights also means that it’s taken on an added importance at the state level, where women voters and activists are looking to friendly governors and legislatures to protect their access to abortion and other services.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat and a Planned Parenthood volunteer, has said he’ll veto any bill attempting to restrict abortion rights. The Keystone State was ground zero in 1992 for Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the most significant abortion rights case since Roe.
Wolf’s Republican challenger, former state Sen. Scott Wagner, has boasted of his “100 percent pro-life record” on the campaign trail. Wagner has said he’ll sign a so-called “heartbeat bill,” banning abortion at as early as six weeks, which is before most women even know they’re pregnant.
Wolf rallied in Philadelphia on Wednesday, July 25, with Planned Parenthood activists and volunteers to oppose a proposed Trump administration rule that would choke off federal funding to the women’s health organization, denying tens of thousands of women access to contraception and other services.
“It defies logic for an administration that opposes abortion to decrease access to birth control — the front-line defense and most effective means to prevent the need for abortion,” Planned Parenthood Southeastern PA President and CEO Dayle Steinberg, who attended the rally, said in a statement.
Not long ago, a GOP consultant here in Pennsylvania mused aloud that with attacks on health care and reproductive rights, it seemed like Republicans were going out of their way to annoy women.
Turns out the tactic worked all too well.
An award-winning political journalist, Micek is the Opinion Editor and Political Columnist for PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. Readers may follow him on Twitter @ByJohnLMicek and email him at email@example.com.