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Republicans Can Win Over Unmarried Women By Exposing Democrats’ Abortion Extremism

If Republicans want to win elections, they need to find messages that work and the right voters to target.

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Republicans have a serious problem in 2024: unmarried women. Republicans also have a major opportunity: unmarried women.

Unmarried women are one of the most Democratic-voting demographics in U.S. politics, voting more than two-to-one for Democratic House candidates (68–31 percent) in 2022. A majority of married men, unmarried men, and married women, in contrast, voted Republican.

But when a party loses a large percentage of a demographic group, there is potential for large gains. That is particularly true when that chunk of voters is heavily courted by one party and largely ignored by the other. Fox News host Jesse Watters might be right that “single women … have been captured by Democrats,” but Republicans don’t “need these ladies to get married” as Watters suggests. They just need to talk to them.

We conducted randomized-controlled trials across seven states in 2022, testing the same core messages attacking Democratic Senate candidates for the Susan B. Anthony List (SBA) and found the messages boosted Republican support, on average, about 1.5 points. But these messages worked best with unmarried women, who shifted +3.5 points toward the Republican. Unmarried women with no college degree moved +4.1 points toward the Republican. And unmarried, lower-income women with no college degree moved +5.8 points toward the Republican.

Unmarried women are in the market for information, and they respond when they get persuasive messaging — even, perhaps especially, when the topic is abortion. You see, the messages we tested attacked Democrat candidates for their extreme positions on abortion.

In hindsight, maybe it shouldn’t be so surprising. After all, unmarried women are a prime target of Democrat efforts, likely bombarded with pro-abortion messaging that is unrelentingly negative toward Republicans. Expose them to new information about a Democrat candidate’s support for unfettered abortion, and the Republican might not seem quite as bad in comparison.

Following the leak of the Dobbs v. Jackson decision, the abortion issue took center stage in American politics. Democrats spent a tremendous amount of money in 2022 — nearly $358 million — airing 27 percent of their ads on pro-abortion messaging to keep abortion top of mind for voters and paint Republican candidates as radical and out of touch on the issue. Meanwhile, Republicans largely abandoned the topic, spending just $37 million and airing only 5 percent of their ads on abortion.

Democrats believe attacking Republicans on abortion helps them win elections. And many campaign professionals and pundits on both sides agree. They credit the abortion issue for a much better-than-expected turnout for Democrats in the 2022 midterm election, despite a flailing economy, high inflation, and a deeply unpopular president. And this year Democrats plan a repeat, making the abortion issue central in the 2024 elections.

But the fundamental lesson here is that Republicans must go on offense to counter Democrat attacks on Republicans over the question of abortion. And targeting demographics with which Republicans have historically struggled — like unmarried women — shows great potential for winning new votes.

Of course, identifying the right messages to persuade unmarried women voters, as we did in the last election cycle, is just the first step. There’s a reason Democrats have maintained this voting bloc so securely. They’ve invested seriously in reaching them with their messaging.

For three decades now, Democrats have leaned heavily on the use of randomized controlled trials and have then refined and modified this data to not only change public opinion but to develop consistent voter behavior.

That’s why our work didn’t end with the message trials alone. For each state, we utilized machine learning to predict the likely effects and identify the very best voters statewide to target for a persuasion campaign. We ran two RCTs during the 2022 elections to estimate the effects of the actual SBA persuasion campaign in the field and found that the effort resulted in a net vote shift of +6.5 and +7.1 points toward the Republican in North Carolina and Wisconsin respectively. Without the message testing combined with precise targeting, these effects would likely have been close to zero.

But this is just the beginning. Democrats have prioritized the issue of abortion, which means that Republicans can’t just shrug their shoulders and hope for the best. We know that giving voters new information works but only if you devote enough resources to make the fight a fair one.

If Republicans want to win on policy and win elections, they need to invest in finding the messages that work, the right voters to target, and the outreach to make it a success.

Winning new voters means finding those not already on our side, but susceptible to new information. And a serious investment in reaching and engaging with those voters.


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