Democrats staved off a red wave by leaning into a key swath of voters that the GOP failed to capture: unmarried women.
Exit polling showed that more than two-thirds of unmarried women (68%) voted Democrat over Republican. But on the bright side, married women voted Republican by 56%. And overall, exit polling showed women favored Democrats 53% to 45%, which is better for Republicans than it was in the last midterm election in 2018, when women voted 59% Democrat to 40% Republican.
The significance of unmarried women voting Democrat by a 37-point margin is real, and is a trend that Republicans will have to contend with to compete in future elections. As Conn Carroll pointed out in the Washington Examiner, unmarried women represent a growing proportion of the U.S. population.
“From the earliest census up through 1950, roughly 80% of households were led by a married couple. By 2000, that percentage had fallen to 52%, and by 2010, for the first time in the nation’s history, most households did not include a married couple. Marriage has only continued to decline since then.”
So what can the GOP do to win back these voters? Moreover, what did they fail to do in the 2022 midterm cycle?
For starters, the GOP must grapple with the unlikeability of former President Donald Trump among these voters. Fair or not, the Trump brand has a tendency to alienate women who might otherwise vote Republican. Ignoring this fact is essentially writing off these voters. Weighing the costs and benefits of candidates’ associations with Trump will be key moving forward.
Moreover, the GOP must resist the temptation to blame women for their own midterm losses. This, after all, is what Democrats often do.
Claiming to be champions of democracy, Democrats attack those they fail to convince any time democracy doesn’t work out in their favor. This election cycle, they didn’t wait for the election results. Leading up to the midterms, when polls showed white suburban women “significantly shifted” their support from Democrats to Republicans amid “rising concerns over the economy and inflation,” Sunny Hostin of “The View” compared them to cockroaches. Other media figures smeared them as “Karens.”
According to the left, women are smart, well-educated voters when they vote Democrat. They’re Karens and cockroaches when they don’t.
Conservatives must be disciplined to prove they are better than this. Attacking women for their voting preferences is an insulting and doomed, political strategy. Ignoring their legitimate concerns is a costly mistake. Rather, the GOP must work harder to understand their priorities and learn what more they’re for.
On the issue of abortion, which motivated about four in 10 voters across states with abortion on their ballot, this means combating common misinformation about the reversal of Roe v Wade. It also means making clear what’s at stake for women’s rights, and why that includes more than just “reproductive rights.”
Since President Joe Biden took office, the party that formerly encouraged women to “vote with their lady parts” can’t even talk about these parts, or any basic biology for that matter, without adopting a new woke vocabulary. Notoriously, Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson balked when asked for the definition of “woman” at her confirmation hearings.
And just days before the election, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, rather than talk about “women,” used the term “people with a period.” This reductionist language has real consequences for our laws and our society, from women’s sports and sex-segregated prisons and shelters to what our kids learn about in sex ed.
Republicans ought to do a better job explaining these issues and proposing innovative solutions to address them.
If the GOP plays its cards right, its future with women is bright. The majority of married women clearly rejected leftist policies that inflated prices, increased crime, locked down schools and prioritized political indoctrination over reading, writing and math. Fearmongering about abortion or “saving democracy” didn’t work.
Moving forward, Republicans should build on its successes and explain how conservative policies, especially on the economy, will brighten women’s futures.
As we say at Independent Women’s Forum, “All issues are women’s issues.” Yes, this includes abortion. But on an encouraging note, it also includes a whole lot more.