Is Romney's 'Women Voters Problem' Just Media Hype?

Much of the media has been discussing Mitt Romney's "women voters problem." Polling expert and political analyst Stuart Rothenberg points out, though, that the media was selective in their choice of data. A more thorough analysis reveals that Romney may have a bigger problem with male voters than female ones.

The media hype over Romney's "women voters problem" originated with a Gallup/USA Today poll and an April 2 article based upon the poll by reporter Susan Page titled, "Swing States Poll: A shift by women puts Obama in lead."

The article reported that President Obama was leading Romney, the likely Republican presidential nominee, 51 percent to 42 percent, in 10 swing states.

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"The biggest change came among women under 50. In mid-February, just under half of those voters supported Obama. Now more than six in 10 do while Romney's support among them has dropped by 14 points, to 30%," Page wrote.

Rothenberg, writing April 10 for the Rothenberg Political Report where he is editor, said that he is struggling with what to conclude from the data because the swing states poll numbers "don't fit together snugly" with national polls, and "some of the data appear contradictory."

National polls taken at about the same time show that Romney's support among women fell only a single percentage point from February to March. Obama's support among women, meanwhile, fell four percentage points in the same period.

Additionally, looking at national polls going back to October, Romney's support among men has dropped dramatically while his support among women has remained about the same. Obama led Romney by 14 percentage points in October and 12 percentage points in March. Among men, however, Romney's 16 percentage point advantage in October was down to only three percentage points in March.

This, of course, is not good news for Romney, but it also contradicts the notion that Romney has an issue with women voters.

"Clearly, Romney can't win the White House if he is winning only 40 percent of female voters nationally or 36 percent of female voters from the 10 swing states. But it's equally true that Romney can't defeat Obama if the Republican carries men by only 3 points (as he does in Gallup's most recent national poll) or by a single point (as he does in the most recent Swing States survey)," Rothenberg explained.

Rothenberg believes that the media has been selective in the data it has presented because it fits into the storyline that there is a Republican "war on women."

"Why have we heard so much about female voters and little or nothing about men? I'd guess that it is because the narrative has been set (about the Republican 'war on women'), so journalists look for data and anecdotes that fit into it," Rothenberg wrote.

In recent months there have been controversies over the Obama administration's birth control mandate. Some religious organizations have taken issue with paying for insurance coverage that is in opposition to their religious doctrine. Democrats have countered that the issue is about access to birth control.

Romney has also been criticized for saying that he would eliminate government funding for Planned Parenthood. Democrats argue that those grants are used to provide important services for women's health, such as mammograms. Republicans argue that the nation's largest provider of abortion services should not receive government funds.

In another controversy related to women voters last week, Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen said on CNN that Ann Romney, Mitt Romney's wife, "has not worked a day in her life." Ann Romney took issue with the suggestion that stay-at-home mothers do not work. Rosen later apologized.

Rothenberg expects the opinions of both men and women to change over time, but advises caution when interpreting survey data.

"Whatever happens, it is best to be cautious when interpreting polling data. Sometimes, things aren't as obvious as they seem."

The Gallup/USA Today poll of 933 registered voters in 10 swing states was conducted March 20-26 and has a plus or minus four percentage point margin of error.

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