This week, TV icon Oprah Winfrey announced that while she fully supports President Barack Obama, she won’t be stumping for his 2012 campaign. Winfrey’s endorsement of Obama in the lead-up to the 2008 Democratic Presidential Primary garnered over one million votes for Obama. While some wonder what effect her absence will have on Obama’s campaign, others are questioning whether he still holds the women’s vote at all.
In 2008, 56% of women who voted cast their ballot for Obama. The women’s vote is an essential constituency, and with male approval about equally distributed between Obama and the Republican nominees, the women’s vote is critical to any Presidential hopeful’s success. Although Obama’s approval ratings have drastically dipped in the past year, particularly among women in late 2011, he’s slowly regaining his backing. In fact, this week, a USA/Gallup poll noted an increasing gender gap between Obama and Romney, with more women supporting Obama. Although women’s support of Obama in the 2008 elections gave him a 12-point lead over McCain, he currently outranks Romney by 18%.
Several factors account for Obama’s bolstering support among females. For starters, economic stability is the chief concern among women, and the recent improvement in the economy has strengthened Obama’s approval ratings. Additionally, the media attention surrounding the Affordable Care Act and contraceptives made for a rich national dialogue, particularly among women. Now, with insurance companies covering the cost of birth control, more women have affordable access to contraceptives, which has improved how women view Obama.
Most recently, a “war on women” is waging between Democrats and Republicans. While Republicans continue to cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood, draft new laws that undercut women’s privacy, such as The Life Defense Act of 2012 in Tennessee, and speak out against abortion, contraceptives, and women’s reproductive health rights, Democrats are claiming that these factors amount to a “war on women,” and threaten to reduce women’s rights and exclude women from making their own health decisions. This week, this “war” extended to the Augusta National Country Club, which currently only admits men.
The women’s vote is crucial for both Obama and the Republican Presidential nominee and should not be overlooked. While Oprah Winfrey’s presence will be missed on the campaign trail, it seems that continued economic improvement and Republican attacks against women’s health will secure the 2012 women’s vote in favor of Obama.