A month until the midterm elections, California’s voters are gearing up for decisions that will have ramifications across the nation. Much has been discussed of a potential “blue wave,” with Democrats eyeing to flip seven Republican congressional seats in California—nearly one-third of the 23 seats needed to shift party control in the US House of Representatives. Concurrently, there are a record number of women running for US Congress and statewide executive offices, including 37 in California. With women comprising 54% of the state’s likely voters, how large a role will they play in the upcoming election?
According to PPIC’s September Statewide Survey, 50% of female likely voters say the upcoming election is more important to them than past midterms; just 3% say it is less important and 46% say it is about the same. Yet when looking at the partisan breakdown among female likely voters there are notable differences: 63% of Democratic women say the upcoming election is more important while 37% of Republican women say the same (sample sizes for independent female likely voters are too small for separate analysis).
In the generic ballot for the US House of Representatives, California’s female likely voters prefer the Democratic candidate over the Republican candidate (58% to 34%). Nearly all partisan female likely voters say they would vote for their own party. When asked about qualities they prefer in a candidate, six in ten Democratic women (60%) prefer those who have experience in politics to those who are new at it, while Republican women are divided (41% experience, 41% new to politics).
Recent prominent events at the national level may impact women’s preferences and turnout in the midterms. Our September survey was fielded following the initial Senate confirmation hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court but prior to the additional hearing on sexual abuse allegations featuring Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Nonetheless, nearly all female likely voters in our September survey view the choice of the next Supreme Court justice as either very (74%) or somewhat (18%) important to them personally. Across parties, Democratic women are much more likely than Republican women to say the choice is personally very important (82% to 62%).
Meanwhile, President Trump’s approval rating reflects sizable partisan differences among California’s female likely voters: 91% of Democratic women disapprove of the way Donald Trump is handling his job as president, while 80% of Republican women approve.
With women poised to play a pivotal role in the upcoming election, we may see the emergence of a “pink wave” that rivals the “Year of the Woman” associated with the 1992 election. Stay tuned to the PPIC Statewide Survey as we continue to monitor the preferences and attitudes of Californians, with a particular interest in female likely voters, leading up to the midterm.