Continuing a trend that most notably started in 2000, women drove Election 2006. The women’s vote was a key to the Democratic victories of 2006. Democrats gained votes among young women and single women; married mothers and white women split their votes pretty evenly between the two parties. The shift of a significant number of married mothers from voting Republican in 2000 and 2004 to voting Democratic in 2006 made an important difference. Those women voters that I call the M&Ms (Married & Mothers) turned rather precipitously from Red to Blue in 2006.
Is there any reason that this move should have been a surprise? Not really. Prior to Election Day, polls consistently showed that Iraq, the economy and corruption were the major issues for the voting public. It shouldn’t have been all that difficult to see what the impact of these would be on the M&Ms.
IRAQ –– The Democrats figured out the evolution taking place in “women’s” concerns and effectively neutralized the Republicans’ previously successful emphasis on the so-called “security” moms by continually highlighting the difficulties posed by the growing sectarian violence between the Sunnis and the Shias, an effort made all the easier by the mainstream media’s support with its reporting exclusively focused on the tragic car bombings. In 2004, more than half of women voters put their confidence in Bush to best conduct the war on terror; by 2006 that number dropped to 25 percent.
ECONOMY –– While the Republicans focused on increased opportunities for women entrepreneurs, overall job growth and the booming stock market, the Democrats were successful in convincing working women that they were not getting ahead as fast as they should. The Republicans won resoundingly among those who said they were doing fine economically. The Democrats won among those who said they were losing ground financially: young women (ages 18-29) voted overwhelmingly Democratic and women ages 30-59 voted Democratic at exactly half the total of the younger women. Unmarried women voted heavily Democratic and the margin for non-white women was about four-to-one Democratic. The white women’s vote was split, which meant a loss of about nine percentage points for the Republicans.