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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Difference in the Senate Battleground? Economic Agenda for Working Women and Men

From Democracy Corps and Womenms Voices Womens Vote Action Fund:
A new poll of the 12 states where control of the Senate is being contested, fielded by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner for Democracy Corps and Women’s Voice Women Vote Action Fund, shows that control of the Senate rests on a knife’s edge, but that Democrats’ have a powerful weapon in a policy agenda and narrative centered around the needs of working women and men. This survey, the first to poll in all 12 battleground states using a named ballot, reveals a 44-46 race in states that were won by Mitt Romney by 9 points just 2 years ago.
This survey also shows that Democrats have a way to improve their fortunes. They are currently being held back by a serious underperformance with unmarried women, who give them just an 11-point advantage on the vote. But engaging in a populist economic debate and attacks on Republicans with a strong emphasis on women’s issues brings these critical voters back in the fold. It also may be the critical strategy in the open battleground Senate seats.
An “in your shoes” populist narrative about people’s economic struggles, a policy agenda about finally helping mothers in the workplace and making sure those at the top are paying their fair share are issues, and, most important, a critique of Republicans for their polices that hurt seniors and women result in significant gains with unmarried women and other key electoral targets when matched against the Republican agenda and could prove the difference between majority or minority-leader Harry Reid come next January.
Key findings:

  • Unmarried women are, perhaps, the most important target for Democrats across this senate battleground.
  • The senate race in this battleground is tied and stable, with Democrats held back by underperformance among base RAE voters and unmarried women.
  • The Democratic incumbents in this battleground are much better liked than Obama and have significantly higher ratings than their Republican opponents. Their approval rating is 6 points above that for the president.
  • Two dynamics could shift this race: the president’s approval in these states is just 37 percent, but stable. Meanwhile, the Republican Party, and particularly the Republicans in the House, is extremely unpopular. And regressions show that sentiment about House Republicans drives the SENATE vote more strongly than sentiment about Senate Republicans.
  • Democrats have a message that can move the vote. A populist economic narrative, including strong messaging around the women’s economic agenda, moves the vote in Democrats’ favor when matched against a Republican economic narrative with big gains in the open-seat race and the state that Obama won in 2012.
  • A critique of Republicans for their positions on seniors, women’s economic issues and women’s health are powerful and help move the vote among younger voters and women, as well as help move the vote in some of the most competitive races in the battleground.
  • And a debate about money in politics, particularly over a Constitutional Amendment to repeal Citizens United and a proposal to get big money out of our campaign system, results in further gains.
  • Exposing unmarried women to the economic message shifts their support for Senate Democrats from +11 to +20.
  • The economic agenda for working women and men includes a cluster of powerful policies on helping working mothers, equal pay and equal health insurance, and making sure that the wealthy and big corporations pay their fair share.
  • Unmarried women are the pivotal group of the debate, as Democrats currently underperform even their 2010 margin significantly, but these voters move strongly in response to the debate.
  • Voters in this Republican-leaning district are split on the electoral impact of the Republican candidate supporting the Hobby Lobby decision, but the issue provides an opening for Democrats to make a powerful critique on Republicans on the issue of women’s health. The issue is very powerful with unmarried women and other key blocs of women.

Read the full memo here.

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