Unmarried Women Fuel Pollster's Optimism for Dems

Unmarried Women Fuel Pollster's Optimism for Dems

By Caitlin Huey-Burns - October 7, 2014

With a month to go until Election Day, veteran Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg says that for the first time this cycle, Democrats appear more likely than not to retain their majority in the Senate. 

Unmarried women are driving this bit of optimism: Since July, support for Democratic candidates among this voting bloc has nearly doubled, according to a battleground state survey Greenberg conducted for Democracy Corps and Women’s Voices.  

Nonetheless, turnout challenges remains. The overall vote picture remains largely unchanged, per Greenberg’s findings, and Republicans are leading Democrats by two percentage points on average. So, while single women overwhelmingly back Democrats, their support won’t matter much if they don’t go to the polls on Election Day. 

The gender gap -- especially as it pertains to single women -- stands to benefit Democrats. That’s why Democrats are pushing so-called women’s issues (access to contraception, abortion rights, pay equity, etc.) in key Senate contests in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, North Carolina and elsewhere. Greenberg says that aside from the economy, Democrats have to succeed in making women’s issues a top reason why voters should choose candidates from their party.  

These pivotal races remain close. In a survey Greenberg and Republican pollster Whit Ayers did for NPR last week, the outcome of this election rests on a knife’s edge.  

Greenberg suggested that Senate races are at what he calls “a tipping point.” The pollsters told reporters that Democrats have shown resiliency so far and can be helped over the top by a few developments: The president’s approval rating is up slightly from July, and the intensity of opposition to the president is down (16 percent strongly disapprove now compared to 23 percent in July). Greenberg also found that GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell’s image is dropping among voters surveyed.  

The pollster also found that Republicans are underperforming among seniors: The GOP has a five-point advantage with this group, compared to an 11-point advantage in 2012 and a 23-point advantage in 2010. For Republicans, the economy, foreign policy and health care rank as the top three concerns voters have when preparing to go to the polls. But the survey also found that the health care law is a motivating factor that helps Democrats, too. This data, Greenberg says, contributes to a narrowing of the enthusiasm gap: 93 percent for Republicans vs. 91 percent for Democrats.  

“The result is that those voting Democratic are as consolidated and as intent on voting as those voting for Republicans. That Republican advantage is now gone in the battlegrounds,” the pollster wrote. 

Still, the overall outlook for the country is bleak: 70 percent of voters in battleground states this year believe America is on the wrong track. That number hasn’t changed since July.  

The survey of 1,000 likely voters was conducted Sept. 20-24. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.09 percentage points.

Caitlin Huey-Burns is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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