Are women turning away from the GOP?

Female voters ran from the Democrats in 2004, but a pollster sees signs that they're coming back.

Published May 10, 2005 2:18PM (EDT)

In the days after the November election, Democrats found themselves in despair on just about every front, but there was little else as alarming as this: The Democratic Party was losing women. Bill Clinton had a 16-point edge over Bob Dole among women; Al Gore had an 11 point edge over George W. Bush among women; but John Kerry beat Bush among women by only 3 percentage points. Combine that trend with a lot of male hostility toward Democrats, and you come up with a pretty red view of the future.

But are things starting to change? Maybe. As we move further and further away from 9/11, as the war in Iraq -- at least sometimes -- takes a backseat to domestic issues like Social Security, health care and the price of gas, there are signs that voters, and women voters in particular, are ready to think again about the Democratic Party.

So says Democratic pollster Celinda Lake. As the Washington Post reports, Lake's latest polling finds women picking unnamed Democratic congressional candidates over Republicans by a 13-point margin. And, Lake says, two groups that backed Bush in 2004 -- white women and married women -- are now split evenly when it comes to party preference.

"Homeland security and terrorism dominated the public's security agenda for several years following September 11th," Lake wrote, according to the Post's report. "However, the current focus appears to have shifted from safeguarding against terrorism to a stronger emphasis on issues that hit home financially. In dozens of recent focus groups among many different cohorts of women, concerns like retirement, health care and economic security are trumping the sorts of homeland security concerns that dominated women's issue agenda before the last election."

One Republican pollster told the Post that, while she couldn't comment on Lake's methodology, she agreed with the general conclusion Lake had reached. "Women, if left to their own devices, are going to tend and trend Democratic. That is absolutely the case," Kellyanne Conway told the Post. "Women are still congenitally Democratic -- and I'm the Republican pollster saying that."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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