Wednesday, November 28, 2012

As Mitt Romney and Barack Obama courted female voters throughout the presidential election, many women’s issues received heavy media attention.

In the University of Iowa Hawkeye Poll, voters from Iowa, Wisconsin, and Ohio were asked a series of questions about women’s issues, including equal pay, coverage for contraceptives, and funding for women’s health organizations. Partisanship and gender played a key role in shaping respondents opinions about women’s issues.

“The Hawkeye Poll results demonstrate the profound importance of women's issues in the 2012 election," says Tracy Osborn, associate professor of political science in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. "Clearly, feelings on women's issues divided partisans in the election,”

“These divides are due, at least in part, to fall-out from comments by two Republican Senate candidates—both of whom lost their race—about rape and pregnancy. The survey experiment questions in the Hawkeye Poll also demonstrate how important it is to word questions well when one asks the voting public about such morality issues as pregnancy and abortion.”

Detailed analysis of the poll follows. Topline results for the poll are available at:'s_Issues_Topline.pdf.

Contraceptives in health plans

Party identification also played a key role in shaping people’s opinions about contraceptives in employer provided health care plans. When asked whether or not employers should be required to provide coverage for contraceptives in their employee health plans, 69.19 percent of Democrats and 26.83 percent of Republicans agreed. When asked if all employers, including religiously affiliated employers, should be required to provide coverage for contraceptives in their employee health plans, Democrats’ support increased by 22.78 percent, and Republican’s support decreased by 12.08 percent. The change in voter support across party indicates high partisanship on the issue abortion.

Government funding for abortion

Both Democratic and Republican voters' support for government funded women's health organizations decreased when they are reminded that these organizations may provide abortions and contraceptive services. Poll results show that 97.95 percent of voters who identify with the Democratic Party support government funding for organizations that focus on health services for women. For Republican Party identifiers, only 22.99 percent of voters support government funding for these women's health organizations. When Republicans were reminded that these may include abortions and contraceptive services, their support decreased by 7.34 percent. When Democratic voters were told that these organizations might also provide abortions and contraceptive services, their support dropped by 15.72 percent, twice as much as Republicans.

The Lily Ledbetter Act

Hawkeye Poll respondents overwhelmingly supported government legislation that would require men and women to be paid equally for comparable work. Of all respondents, 90.91 percent indicated that they supported the Lily Ledbetter Act, which was passed by Congress to help ensure equal pay for equal work for men and women. However, there where slight differences along party lines. While 96.97 percent of Democrats said they support this legislation, only 77.75 percent of Republicans felt the same way. The difference in opinions across party lines highlights the continuing debate about the role of government in our country.

Equal pay

Voters in the three swing states were asked whether they believe women are paid more, equal, or less than men for comparable work. The poll showed that a majority of both sexes believe that women are paid less. However, men are more likely to think that women are paid equally. Of males polled, 30.55 percent thought that women are paid equally to men, but only 17.77 percent of women believed that was true.

About the Hawkeye Poll

Likely voters in the 2012 election were self-identified. A total of 834 respondents were interviewed in Iowa, Ohio, and Wisconsin, with 789 stating that they planned to vote in the 2012 election. The margin of error for the full sample was plus or minus 3.5 percent.

The poll was conducted by the Hawkeye Poll Cooperative, comprised of UI faculty and graduate students in political science. The faculty adviser for the poll is UI Associate Professor of Political Science Frederick Boehmke. The poll used the facilities of the Iowa Social Science Research Center, directed by UI Sociology Professor Kevin Leicht. The poll is a teaching, research, and service project of the Department of Political Science in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS). CLAS and the Department of Political Science fund the poll.