Will Kavanaugh Confirmation Drive Women Away from the GOP? Not Likely
Despite the breathless analysis of mainstream media commentators, the theory has little basis in the data
Even before Justice Brett Kavanaugh assumed a seat on the Supreme Court, liberal pundits and Democratic politicians were predicting that the women of America would rise up in rage.
Democratic political consultant Paul Begala, for example, declared on CNN Friday, “The women of America are not going to settle for this.”
Similarly, CNN’s Dana Bash noted that Democrats, already fired up for next month’s midterm elections, would become even more energized as a result of Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
“Women in particular,” CNN anchor Jim Sciutto chimed in.
For all the confident pronouncements of the conventional wisdom, though, there is surprisingly little objective evidence to back it up. Polling reveals little evidence of a gender gap on Kavanaugh (pictured above) after accounting for political affiliation.
“When you dig a little bit deeper, I found it amazing that 55 percent of women thought Judge Kavanaugh should be confirmed as long as the FBI investigation didn’t turn up anything.”
Certainly, that is the case among the senators. All but one male Democrat joined the women in the party in opposing Kavanaugh. And only one of the Senate’s six Republican women defected.
It’s not just the politicians. There is plenty of evidence that Americans mostly have viewed the confirmation fight more through a political prism than from a gender standpoint.
A Marist poll published last week does show a gender gap on Kavanaugh — 53 percent of women but only 40 percent of men have an unfavorable view of the new justice. It is results like these have driven the narrative that the confirmation will be a poison pill for GOP candidates trying to attract female votes.
Diving into the polling. A closer dive into the numbers, however, suggests that the gender gap largely evaporates once controlling for party:
- The share of Democrats holding a favorable view of Kavanaugh is nearly identical among the sexes — 5 percent of men and 6 percent of women. Democratic men were actually more likely than Democratic women to hold an unfavorable view of the judge — 85 percent to 75 percent.
- Likewise, the poll found little gender gap among Republicans — 81 percent of men and 80 percent of women held a favorable view of Kavanaugh. At 12 percent, the share of GOP women with an unfavorable view was just 4 percentage points higher than among GOP men.
- Among independents, more women viewed Kavanaugh unfavorably than favorably, a margin of 57 percent to 32 percent. Among men, the margin was 44 percent to 38 percent unfavorable.
The results were similar on the question of whether Kavanaugh should he confirmed — 4 percent of Democratic men and 6 percent of Democratic women said they “strongly” or “somewhat” supported confirmation; the figure was 89 percent men among Republican men and 86 percent of Republican women; among independents, it was 45 percent of men and 37 percent of women.
“There is a gender gap, but the most prominent factor determining people’s views seems to be more along party lines,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “Party is the big factor here.”
Miringoff told LifeZette that the conventional wisdom may have taken hold because the most visible anti-Kavanaugh demonstrators have been women.
“There’s a difference between the country as a whole and those who are more mobilized to respond,” he said.
Feelings about Kavanaugh one way or the other are one thing. The relevant political question is whether it will affect the way people vote in November. Among Democrats, 6 percent of men and 1 percent of women said they are more likely to vote for congressional candidates who support him. But Democratic men, by a 9-point margin, are more likely than women to say opposition to Kavanaugh makes them more disposed to vote for a candidate.
There is virtually no difference among Republicans on that question. Some 72 percent of men and 73 percent of women are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports Kavanaugh. And 7 percent of Republican women and 6 percent of Republican men would be less likely to do so.
Independents do show a gender gap on that question. Although support for Kavanaugh draws votes in roughly equal shares, female independents are 21 points more likely than male independents to support a candidate opposing Kavanaugh.
“Women are not monolithic.” Patrice Lee Onwuka, a senior policy analyst at the conservative Independent Women’s Forum (IWF), said people should not expect all female voters to reach the same conclusion on Kavanaugh.
“Women are not monolithic, as you know,” she told LifeZette. “And they care about a lot of different issues.”
Onwuka pointed to a Harvard-Harris poll last month.
“When you dig a little bit deeper, I found it amazing that 55 percent of women thought Judge Kavanaugh should be confirmed as long as the FBI investigation didn’t turn up anything,” she said.
So why all the commentary focusing on alienating women?
“For people on the Left, they would like for that to be the take-home message because they would like to overstate their influence,” said Carrie Severino, chief council and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network. Her organization spent millions of dollars in support of the nomination.
Several conservative female activists told guest host Raymond Arroyo Friday on “The Laura Ingraham Show” that the Kavanaugh fight has fired up Republican voters — and not just men.
“Conservative women are very engaged,” said Cathi Herrod, head of the Center for Arizona Policy. “Women are outraged by this whole notion of ‘believe women,’ and a woman can accuse any man of a sexual assault and that woman is to be believed regardless of whether there’s any corroborating evidence, etc.”
Ginger Howard, a Republican National Committeewoman from Georgia, told Arroyo that people are tired of the “women-against-men” card and that the confirmation battle would help Republicans in November.
“I’m a woman. And it’s an affront to me,” she said. “It just makes me very angry that they are trying to play this game. And women that I’m talking to see right through it.”
Miringoff, the Marist pollster, said it seems pretty clear the enthusiasm gap that has favored Democrats has vanished. The question is whether that dynamic holds for the next month — not whether Kavanaugh’s confirmation pushes away Republican-leaning women.
“People aren’t moving across party lines,” he said. “There’s no switching. It’s all about mobilization.”