In the struggle for the political high ground in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling on ObamaCare, both the Obama and Romney camps have spent the bulk of their ammunition arguing over whether the individual mandate is a “tax” or a “penalty.” But when it comes to messaging specifically to women, both camps are missing the point – because new survey data reveals that women don’t care nearly as much about the tax/penalty argument as they do about other features of ObamaCare that can’t be spun.
While they like ObamaCare’s promise to cover those who need insurance, they worry about its effect on their freedom of choice and control, and for those who favor repeal, they particularly care about its negative effect on government spending and the national debt, and their own households budgets.
Consequently, it comes as no surprise that in a July 2 national survey of 800 likely-voting women, with a margin of error of plus/minus 3.5 percent – conducted for Independent Women’s Voice by GEB International, done after the Supreme Court ruling had a chance to sink in – 56 percent of those surveyed said they still want to repeal all or part of ObamaCare and start over, against 38 percent who want to keep it intact. That’s an 18-point margin, and it’s particularly remarkable, given that Democrats outnumber Republicans in the survey sample by 45-31 percent, or by 14 points.
Undecided Independent women will play an enormous role in deciding the election. Not surprisingly, partisans of both parties line up with their party’s nominee, but among the undecideds – 11 percent of the survey sample – almost half (48 percent) identify themselves as Independents. That’s a huge opportunity.
And how should Romney go after undecided women? By campaigning to repeal ObamaCare. Fully 70 percent of undecided women want ObamaCare repealed either wholly or in part, against just 18 percent who want it maintained. That is, the margin between those who want to repeal ObamaCare and those who want to keep it grows from an 18-point gap to a 52-point gap.
More than a third of women (36 percent) say it will be either the most important issue or one of the most important issues for them when deciding how to vote, and 42 percent say it will be at least as important as other issues, which are the economy and creating jobs.
Though concerns about government interference and the lack of control over medical choices remain the top general reasons given for opposition to the law, the intensity for repeal was at its highest when female voters learned that the provision of ObamaCare that allows children up to the age of 26 to stay on their parents’ insurance has already increased costs between $150 - $450 for the average family, regardless of whether they had such a young adult covered. When presented with this fact, 72 percent wanted full repeal. And when women learned that spending on enrollees in the pre-existing conditions program is more than double than what was promised, 63 percent opted for full repeal.
These facts may be so powerful precisely because the health care law was sold as not only being neutral in effect on one’s own insurance, but as a savings device that would “bend the cost curve down”. Now we find that it bends the cost curve up, while not remotely delivering on its promises and arguably making health care worse.
Since 2010, Independent Women’s Voice has asked candidates for office to sign the Repeal Pledge, committing them to supporting all efforts to repeal ObamaCare in whole and in part. So we were curious: how much did that matter to female voters? The answer should be a wake up call to politicians: When asked if, in the wake of the Supreme Court decision, a voter would be more or less likely to support a candidate who refused to sign the Repeal Pledge, even though they said they were for repeal, the results were definitive: By a 41-18 percent margin, females overall would be less likely to support that candidate. Among undecided females, the margin was even greater – by a 39-14 percent margin, voters would be less likely to support a candidate who failed to sign the Repeal Pledge. And among repeal supporters, watch out: that soars to 57-10.
The lesson for the Romney campaign – and the campaign of any candidate who wants to repeal ObamaCare – is clear: More and more women are the CFO of their household. They set the budget, pay the bills, and handle the family checkbook. Unlike the federal government, they know the costs of running a family, stay within their budget, and don’t put burdensome debt in the way of their family’s future.
They know we can’t afford ObamaCare. They want it repealed. And they want candidates to break the usual Washington mode of promising one thing and then doing another, and instead sign the Repeal Pledge – and then live up to it.
Heath is a senior policy analyst at Independent Women’s Voice. Higgins is the group’s president and chief executive officer.