GOP hopes to make gains with women by highlighting inflation
Republicans are using the economy to target female voters ahead of November’s midterm elections in the hopes of making inroads with a voting bloc that has historically favored Democrats.
The party has zeroed in on combating inflation as part of its effort to appeal to women as voters across the board feel the impact of rising prices.
But with women still generally earning less than men and often saddled with the role of the financial gatekeepers of households, experts say the current state of the economy is hitting the voting bloc particularly hard.
“If women are in charge of, for example, household buying, as we know they are, [rising costs] will be more relevant to them,” said Kelly Dittmar, scholar and the director of research at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.
According to a recent report from MagnifyMoney, which uses U.S. census data, men make up 72 percent of six-figure earners in the country, while women make up 57 percent of workers who earn less than $25,000 on an annual basis. Additionally, the data showed that for every woman who makes a minimum of $100,000, 2.5 men make the same amount of money.
A poll released earlier this month from the nonprofit women’s group All In Together found that 58 percent of women voters surveyed said the country’s economy is not working well for them personally.
Additionally, 47 percent of men and 46 percent of women blamed President Biden for the rise in living costs, while 42 percent of men and 41 percent of women said they hold him responsible for rising gas prices.
“I think we’ll see a lot of discussion of it, but the messaging will be spun either way with attentiveness to the fact that women voters are key to anybody’s success on either side of the aisle,” Dittmar added.
Women across the board played a major role in the 2018 and 2020 elections, giving Democrats control of the House, Senate and presidency over the course of those two years. Suburban women played a particularly big role in swing districts, having helped Democratic House candidates sweep to victory in 2018 and voted for Biden in 2020.
“Cost of living increases are real and especially in the suburban seats that typically flip back and forth. That’s where you’re seeing the cost of living rise pretty quickly,” said Amanda Iovino, who ran polling for Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s (R) winning campaign and is vice president at the GOP polling firm WPA Intelligence.
Republicans became more optimistic about female voters, particularly white women, after Youngkin’s victory in 2021. According to exit polling from CBS News, the percentage of white women who voted Republican in Virginia increased from 49 percent in 2020 to 57 percent in 2021. Meanwhile, the percentage of white women who voted Democratic in Virginia decreased from 50 percent in 2020 to 43 percent in 2021. Youngkin also made inroads in suburban enclaves, like Northern Virginia, which have leaned heavily Democratic in other recent elections.
Many Republicans attribute Youngkin’s success to his promise to eliminate the grocery tax.
“It’s how he got elected,” said Sarah Chamberlain, a Republican strategist and the president and CEO of the Republican Main Street Partnership.
“It was the pocketbook issues. That’s how he got the suburban people, mainly women, to vote for him,” she said. “He won areas of Virginia that he never would have won if he hadn’t taken that tax.”
For Biden, on the other hand, there are signs that he’s struggling with this voting bloc.
A Quinnipiac University survey released earlier this month showed the president’s approval at 33 percent. Among women, Biden’s approval sat at 37 percent, while his disapproval rating came in at 50 percent among women. Thirty-two percent of white women said they approved of the president’s job, while 56 percent said they disapproved.
“They have been disappointed,” Chamberlain said. “They thought they were getting a middle-of-the-road Democrat and it turns out they get someone closer to Bernie Sanders, and they find him to be weak, which is one of the reasons why you see his polling as low as it is.”
Republicans are also hoping to make inroads with minority voters, including women, as those communities also feel the effects of rising prices.
“Talking about inflation is actually going to help with Latina and African American women,” Iovino said. “When Republicans are talking about the grocery tax and gas tax holidays like Gov. Youngkin is, that’s something real and tangible that minority women, which have traditionally voted Democrat in very strong numbers, it’s an issue they can connect with Republicans on right now.”
The same Quinnipiac poll showed Biden with a 26 percent approval rating among Hispanics and a 54 percent disapproval rating.
But the president still carries strong support among Black Americans despite many having reported feeling the strain of inflation. The poll showed the president at a 63 percent approval rating with Black Americans, compared to a 25 percent disapproval rating.
A Wall Street Journal poll released last month showed that 44 percent of both Black women and Hispanic men reported feeling the most financial strain from inflation compared to other demographics.
“It makes more sense when talking about this issue to target people based on income rather than on race or gender, so, for instance, working-class Hispanic women, working-class Black women,” said one national GOP strategist. “Inflation is regressive. It’s hitting them harder, and so in that sense, yes, that’s probably where we can see some gains.”
Democrats, on the other hand, have been rolling out countermessaging to the GOP’s offensive. The Biden administration has blamed rising gas prices on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine, dubbing the situation “Putin’s price hike.”
Other Democrats have cited the upcoming Supreme Court decision this summer on a Mississippi abortion law that could ban the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy as a means to win over independent women and galvanize the party’s liberal base.
But most Republicans shrug off this strategy, arguing that abortion does not fit into the same kitchen table category that inflation does.
“Personal and family finance is going to be a more day-to-day issue for these voters,” said another Republican strategist.
“Women go to the grocery store every week. We don’t get abortions every week.”