A poll conducted by comScore Networks, Inc. has determined that President George W. Bush holds a narrow 1.7% lead among women voters nationwide. Yet Senator John Kerry holds a slim lead in two of three key battleground states. Kerry leads among women voters in Florida (50.0% to 45.5%) and Pennsylvania (50.0% to 44.0%), while the race is a dead heat in Ohio (47.1% to 47.1%).
comScore’s poll surveyed 2,379 registered women voters nationwide between October 16 and October 20, 2004.* The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.0%.
“While a majority of women voters favor President Bush nationally, those in the three key battleground states are significantly less supportive. The difference is clearly impacting the president’s performance in these critical states,” says Magid Abraham, PhD, CEO and co-founder of comScore Networks, Inc. “Our poll clearly shows that compared to the national average, larger margins of women voters in key swing states believe that the country is worse off today than it was four years ago.”
While 52.3% of all women voters nationwide say the country is worse off today than it was four years ago, the numbers are considerably higher in Florida (57.6%), Pennsylvania (58.8%), and Ohio (55.8%). Issues that favor Kerry are more important to female voters living in swing states. For example, 21.3% of female voters in swing states list the economy as their top priority issue, compared to 18.9% of women nationally. Similarly, 14.2% of female voters in swing states list healthcare as their most important issue compared to 13% nationally. Issues that tend to favor President Bush, such as terrorism and illegal immigration, are less of a concern in swing states.
Bush Leads on Terrorism, Homeland Security and Iraq, but Lags on all Domestic Issues
President Bush enjoys a commanding lead on the key issues of homeland security, terrorism and the war in Iraq. In assessing who would do a better job in the war on terrorism, women voters overall prefer Bush 58.7% to 39.4%. A similar margin exists in the area of homeland security, where Bush holds a 56.9% to 40.9% edge. However, it is important to note that President Bush’s strength among women voters on terrorism, homeland security and Iraq is significantly lower in the three swing states than in the country as a whole. For example, 57% of women nationally believe Bush would do a better job in Iraq versus 41% for Kerry – a gap of 17 points. In swing states, however, only a 6-point gap exists (51% to 46%).
When asked who would do a better job on a range of issues, Senator Kerry gets higher marks on every single campaign issue except homeland security, terrorism and Iraq. On the economy, healthcare, education, job growth and social security, women voters in battleground states clearly have more confidence in Kerry. Kerry’s performance on these domestic issues is significantly stronger in the three swing states than in the country overall. For example, among women voters in Ohio, Kerry leads Bush on job growth 54.7% to 41.5%.
War in Iraq Presents Delicate Challenge for Bush
Overall, women think Bush would do a better job on the War in Iraq than Kerry (57.0% to 40.9%). However, among 19 percent of female voters who think this is the most important campaign issue, the reverse is true— Kerry wins 61.2% to 35.4%. This presents a difficult challenge for Bush because it suggests he needs to keep it among the top five issues for voters, without making it the highest priority.
Married vs. Single Women: Beyond “Security Moms”
Marital status continues to be the single most important demographic differentiator between Bush and Kerry supporters. President Bush gets 56.4% of married women’s votes, but only 36.6% among single women. Being a married mom increases the president’s vote only slightly to 57.5%. The difference in marital status accounts for almost a 20-point gap in Bush’s support, while being a married mom raises his support by less than 2 points above and beyond support among all married women.
Interestingly, the war in Iraq is more important to single women as a whole than it is to married women. When ranking issues that most influence who they will vote for, single women ranked the war in Iraq as the number one issue, while married women ranked it as the third most important behind homeland security/terrorism and the economy.
What Matters to Women in This Election - What Will Drive Their Vote?
Of all the campaign issues out there, which matter most to women? Many issues are thought to elicit a strong emotional response from women but they have little influence on determining their choice for president. When asked to select their five most important issues, three out of four women surveyed did not choose any of the following: environment, federal deficit, abortion, stem-cell research, gay marriage, illegal immigration, or gun control. Both single and married women voters identified the war in Iraq, health care, the economy, homeland security/terrorism and social security as the most important issues in the election.
“Based on the results of ‘who would do a better job’ questions, women voters are having a more difficult task this year in choosing a president,” said Dr. Abraham. “They are, in essence, being asked to choose between ‘the economy and terrorism’ or ‘healthcare and homeland security.’ They like President Bush for one and Senator Kerry for the other. And that’s what is creating such anxiety among undecided women voters at this late stage in the campaign.”
When it comes to prioritizing economic concerns, pocketbook issues matter most. Unemployment, the cost of living, personal income and gas prices are more important than less immediate issues, such as tax rates, mortgage rates and the performance of the stock market. While taxes are among the least important economic issues to women, 54.6% of single women and 61.1% of married women say that tax cuts should remain in place.
First Lady Preferences Show Stark Division
Women voters have strikingly different opinions of Laura Bush and Teresa Heinz Kerry -- and for many women, these opinions will play a role in their choice of a candidate. Simply put, a strong majority of female voters view the First Lady favorably, both nationally (58.2%) and in the three key swing states. Teresa Heinz Kerry, on the other hand, has a favorability rating of only 29.9%. In fact, an unusually high 40.5% of women voters give Heinz Kerry an unfavorable rating. Among married women, the ratings are even lower for Heinz Kerry. For every married woman that dislikes Laura Bush, there are seven that dislike Teresa Heinz Kerry.
Perhaps the more important finding is that more than half (51.5%) of the women voters surveyed by comScore, say that their preference for First Lady will have at least some impact on their vote, and 14.2% say it will have a significant impact. Not surprisingly, President Bush has a commanding majority, 69.8%, among women with a favorable opinion of Mrs. Bush and a whopping 86.3 % majority among women with an unfavorable opinion of Mrs. Heinz Kerry.
“It is no accident that the Bush campaign is relying so heavily on Laura Bush; she is clearly immensely popular among women voters, and she is a strong asset to the Bush-Cheney campaign,” adds Dr. Abraham.
If not for the fear of terrorism and the concern about the war in Iraq, Senator Kerry would be 5 to 10 points ahead of President Bush among women voters nationwide, and 10 to 15 points in swing states. Clearly, female voters show greater confidence in Kerry on domestic issues, such as healthcare, education and the economy. But, just as clearly, women voters feel that Bush would make a better leader in the war on terror and a stronger commander-in-chief in the war in Iraq.
*The respondents were female Internet users who were contacted via email. The key swings states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania were sampled more heavily for increased precision in the three key swing states. National data were weighted to accurately reflect the contribution of the swing states to the national results.
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