Women who don’t usually vote in midterm elections — the same women who generally drive Democratic victories — will turn out in 2014 over the issue of guns, according to a recent poll.
The survey released by Women Donors Network, a self-described progressive “community of women philanthropists,” found that a subset of women voters who usually don’t vote in midterm elections are more likely to vote in 2014 on the issue of gun violence.
That echoes what former Rep. Steve LaTourette (OH), now a militant moderate leader in the Republican Party, said on Tuesday when he cautioned his party against sticking too close to the National Rifle Association in the post-Newtown legislative push to reduce gun violence. If the GOP is seen as being in the pocket of the NRA, he said, it could cost the party big with women in future elections.
The survey, which was conducted by Democratic pollster Diane Feldman and Republican pollster Bob Carpenter using live phone calls to 1,500 women, found that “women who may not ordinarily vote in a non-presidential year are among those most engaged with issues of gun violence.” The group also posted a PDF slide deck presenting the poll’s findings.
Feldman explained in an interview with TPM on Wednesday the results mean guns could be good politics for Democrats.
“As we approach the 2014 congressional elections, the question will be to what degree do single women, lower income women, persons of color participate since that’s the Democratic edge,” she said. “And this is an issue that can encourage them to participate.”
Strong support for universal background checks on firearms purchases and a focus on mental health and reducing violence in schools could rally these women the polls in unexpected numbers in 2014, Feldman said. They also happen to be part of President Obama’s proposals following the Newtown, Conn., school massacre. Feldman called the potential increase in minority and lower income women voters “significant.” And that could change the dynamics of the election (thought it would also have an impact dependent upon the demographics of given congressional districts.)
Obviously, gun rights supporters have been rallied by the talk of gun control as well. One only needs to look at the empty shelves at the local gun store for evidence of that. But Feldman noted that the stereotypical hardcore gun rights supporter — an older, white man — already votes in big numbers in the midterms. Also, the NRA’s objections to expanded background checks doesn’t have the ability to pull out their base, she said, because so many of the NRA’s members also support universal checks.
“Do i deny an NRA constituency? Of course not.” Feldman said. But, she added, “background checks are not a mobilizing issue for their members.”
Some recent NRA rhetoric backs Feldman up on this point. NRA leaders have cast background checks as the first step toward a national registration system for gun owners and potential confiscation of firearms — ideas found in none of the White House proposals.
And so the political upside this time, according to the WDN poll anyway, favors taking on the NRA rather than standing with it. Republicans in tight races likely won’t have a pool of unexpected NRA-supporting voters to rely on. Based on the polling, gun owners are generally older white men, a group that votes pretty reliably in every cycle. That means the chance to increase the electorate with a gun fight likely goes to the side pushing for new regulations, Feldman said.
“You’re not talking older white men being the electorate who drops off in off-years,” She said. “We have far more capacity to motivate our base to participate in an unusual way than they do. Both in terms of where they are on the issues and in terms of who does and doesn’t participate in off-year elections.”