Obama and Women: Shifting Views?

The debate made quite an impression.

On women.

That’s one of the most remarkable, and perhaps questionable, findings of the newest Pew Research Center poll.

President Barack Obama has lost advantages among both registered and likely voters in the latest Pew poll, conducted during the four days following the first of the season’s presidential debates.

It showed the two candidates running even — 46-46 percent — among registered voters, with Romney leading by four points among likely voters: 49-45.

Obama lost eight to nine points on both scores since the last Pew survey in September. The Pew Poll found voters saying Romney had a better debate, by a three-to-one margin. Other polls have echoed that debate gap.

But the gender gap is what’s missing in the newest Pew poll:

— In a Sept. 12-16 survey, Pew found, the president held an 18-point advantage among likely women voters: Obama 56 percent, Romney 38 percent.

— In the Oct. 4-7 survey, Obama and Romney tied, 47-47, among likely women voters.

The views of the candidates had changed from month to month, and the change was most noteworthy among women registered to vote:

— Last month, 60 percent of registered women voters held a favorable view of Obama. He has lost nine points on that score: 51 percent in the latest survey.

— Last month, 42 percent of registered women voters held a favorable view of Romney. He has gained six points: 48 percent in the latest survey.

Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Center, suggests in an e-mail that “a lack of focus on social issues in the debate may have had something to do with it.”

The difference in opinion is most pronounced among white women: 57 percent of white female likely voters siding with Romney, 38 percent Obama. Particularly so among younger white women: 63-35 for Romney among white women ages 18-49.

Among white women with college educations or more and likely to vote, Obama holds a narrow advantage in the survey: 51-46 percent. With some college or less, it’s Romney 63-31.

So, if Kohut’s theory holds, Obama should spend almost all of the next debate talking about how he is going to help more women get college educations.

The poll found more “swing voters,” those undecided or leaning toward a candidate or saying there still is a chance of changing their minds, finding that Romney “has new ideas” — a 10-point advantage for him on that question.

Those potentially persuadables said Romney would do a better job of reducing the federal budget deficit by a margin of 21 percentage points.

They also said Obama would do a better job of dealing with health care by the same margin of 21 percentage points.

All of which suggests Obama might spend more time talking about education and health care in the next debate if he wants to turn the table.


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