If Democrats are going to take back Congress in November, it’ll be up to women voters.
That’s one of the conclusions suggested by the latest Post/ABC News poll — but it was also the same logic that led many people, myself included, to think that Hillary Clinton was all but a lock to win the 2016 election. I want to look back at what happened then, and what we know about 2018, to see what might happen later this year.
Let’s begin with these latest results. Overall, the poll finds Democrats favored over Republicans by a 12-point margin, 51-39 percent, when voters are asked whether they plan to support a generic Democrat or Republican in this year’s House elections. This is at the higher end of the margin recent polls have found; some have shown the Democrats’ lead as high as 14 points or as low as 5 points, with the latest average around 8 points. But here’s what the poll finds about women:
The Post-ABC poll finds Democrats holding a 57 percent to 31 percent advantage among female voters, double the size of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s margin in the 2016 election. Nonwhite women favor Democrats by a 53-point margin, somewhat smaller than Clinton’s 63-point advantage over Trump in 2016. But white women have moved sharply in Democrats’ direction, favoring them over Republicans by 12 points after supporting Trump by nine points in 2016 and Republican candidates by 14 points in the 2014 midterm election, according to network exit polls.
Why would women be more inclined to vote Democratic than they were in 2016? There are any number of reasons you could point to, like the administration’s unrelenting attack on reproductive rights, but most prominent among them is the #MeToo movement that has brought so much attention to issues of harassment and sexual assault. Some well-known liberal men have been targets of serious allegations, but only the GOP is led by someone who bragged on tape about his ability to sexually assault women with impunity and has been credibly charged with various forms of sexual impropriety by two dozen women.
Generic ballot tests, however, can only tell you so much. The real question might end up being not whether women will favor Democratic candidates, but whether they’ll turn out to vote for them. There are two gender gaps at work: a gap in vote choice, and a gap in turnout.