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Obama Fares Worse Among Women after Month-Long Contraception Mandate Battle

Washington Post poll contradicts Washington Post narrative about female voters.

2:37 PM, Mar 12, 2012 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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On Twitter, I pointed out to the Post's reporter that Obama's numbers had improved a lot between last summer and January--before the "shouting match over reproductive issues" had begun. Gallup, for example, showed Obama's net approval rating among all voters improving from -11 in August to -2 in January. So the fight in February over the mandate couldn't have caused Obama's improvement. It seems much more likely that better economic news caused Obama's rebound in the polls over the past several months, but the Post reporter never considers the possibility. (The same reporter once credulously cited a poll claiming that coverage of abortion under Obamacare would be wildly popular. Reliable polls showed abortion coverage was deeply unpopular, and the issue nearly killed Obamacare.)

A better way to measure how the fight over the mandate is playing out would be to compare January polls to late February or early March polls--and then compare movement among female voters to movement among male voters over the same period. Gallup showed Obama's approval rating average unchanged from January to February. And now we have the Post/ABC numbers showing that "there’s no increase in approval [for Obama] among women. And on vote preference vs. Romney, Obama did better among men and women alike last month." The generic Democratic edge among women voters "essentially matches the long-term norm," according to the Post/ABC pollster.

After our Twitter exchange, the Post reporter toned down the piece. The claim that the fight over "reproductive issues" caused the GOP's slide among women voters was deleted. The piece now notes that the GOP's downward trend among women voters "began before the controversy in recent weeks." (See the original report here.)

But even with these tweaks, the story is still one-sided. From its weak polling analysis, the story goes on to quote two Democratic pollsters, the president of a liberal think tank, and a Republican pollster working for a rival of Rick Santorum's--all of whom argue the issue is bad for Republicans.

The story also quotes Maine senator Olympia Snowe, the lone Republican who voted against the conscience exemption to Obamacare. The Post never notes that three Democrats voted for the conscience bill, and it pretends Kelly Ayotte, a Republican senator from New Hampshire who has been an outspoken opponent of the mandate, doesn't exist. Old white guy Orrin Hatch serves as a much more useful foil in the Post's 'GOP v. women' narrative.

The Post notes that Alaska senator Lisa Murkowski did an about-face on the conscience bill after she voted for it, but Murkowski is in a unique situation. She lost the 2010 Republican primary and won a three-way race without the support of conservatives. Murkowski badly needs a good chunk of support from social liberals and Democrats, unlike most Republicans.  

Of course, Senator Scott Brown needs lots of moderates and independents to vote for him in liberal Massachusetts. And according to the Boston Globe, "Brown may have benefited from his positions on social issues in the last few weeks, such as the one over whether Catholic institutions should be forced to provide contraception in their health care plans for workers." 

Brown's Democratic opponent oriented her entire campaign around "contraception access" for the past month, but Brown tackled the issue head-on and now holds a significant lead over Warren in Massachusetts. But this fact doesn't fit with the Washington Post's narrative, so it apparently isn't fit to print.

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