|Photo Courtesy of the NRSC|
It's an interesting coincidence that female turnout, as a percentage share of the electorate, was the lowest nationwide in Colorado Tuesday night. Couldn't possibly have anything to do with the sharply negative ads in the state, largely directed at women, could it?
Nearly two years ago, Colorado's incumbent Democratic Senator was considered safe in a midterm election that would seemingly favor Republicans. Then came the backroom deal that propelled Cory Gardner to the nomination. Knowing that Gardner was their greatest political threat of the Colorado GOP bench, the Udall campaign began a focused effort on convincing Colorado women that the Republican nominee for Senate would eliminate their access to abortions and birth control. After the Obama/Biden campaign experienced some success with the so-called "war on women' tactic in 2012, Udall hoped to replicate their campaigns impressive performance among females by singing a similar tune.
This time, however, they were unsuccessful. Gardner has been declared the winner with 93% of precincts reporting.
Over time, Udall's single-issue focus on women's reproductive health drew criticism and ridicule from all political corners, most notably from local Colorado newspapers that historically bent Democratic. And indeed, Tuesday night's exit polling would indicate Udall's 'war on women' strategy failed. Though the Democrat did ultimately win the female vote, it was by a rather unimpressive 52-44%, especially when compared to Udall's seventeen point loss among Colorado males, or Beauprez's twelve point loss with women, or Buck's seventeen point loss with females in 2010.
But there appears to be another interesting side effect of the "war on women" overkill seen in the 2014 Colorado Senate race - women made up a lower proportion of the electorate as compared to men than in ANY other Governor or Senate contest that night, save only the Colorado Governor race.
Just 47% of Colorado voters identified as female, while 53% identified as male. For reference, the national exit poll taken Tuesday found women made up 51% of voters, with men at 49%. Even Alaska, where men outnumber women in the total population, found higher turnout among women in their Senate race (48%) than Colorado. Of the forty-one exit-polled contests on November 4th, women outnumbered men as a share of the electorate in thirty-two of them, or 78% of the time. Men outnumbered women in only four of them, or just 10% of the time. The five remaining contests split 50/50 between male and female voters.
These stats alone aren't enough to conclusively state that Udall's campaign tactics caused more women to stay away from the polls than otherwise would have. But even browsing through past Colorado exit polls for President, Governor, or Senator indicates that it's far from typical for Colorado to feature the lowest female turnout in the country, as compared to males.
In 2010, the Colorado Senate and Gubernatorial electorate was made up of equal percentages of men and women, along with eight other contests that year. While this represented a lower percentage of women than found nationally, Colorado was not at the bottom of the heap. Eight states actually had a higher percentage of men voting than women. Twenty-seven out of the total fourty-four exit-polled contests that year found women exceeded men (or, 61% of the time).
Something similar occurred in 2012. Colorado's female turnout as compared to men, though it came in under the national average again, was a net 7-pts higher than it was Tuesday. In fact, women made up a majority of the Colorado electorate in 2012 (51%).
More significantly, out of about 300 Presidential, Gubernatorial, and Senate contests that were surveyed by exit pollsters since 2006, only *THREE* featured a lower, or AS low a percentage of female voters as the 2014 Colorado Senate race. Those three contests are, ironically enough, the 2014 Colorado Governor race (54% male, 46% female), the 2010 Hawaii Senate race (54% male, 46% female), and the 2010 Hawaii Governor race (53% male, 47% female). Again - only three!
Colorado has typically seen lower female turnout than most states, at least according to exit polls conducted since 2008. But certainly not THE lowest in the country. And never as low as 47% (see table below). Who is to say whether Udall's 'war on women' strategy depressed female turnout, or motivated male turnout? Indeed, who is to say any of this has anything to do with the 'war on women?' But again, Colorado saw the lowest proportion of female to male voters of the night on Tuesday. And the 2014 Colorado Senate contest featured one of the four lowest proportions of female voters out of nearly 300 exit-polled contests since 2006. I'd like to kindly submit this to the DSCC, as they ramp up for 2016.
Update: Nate Cohn, who I respect, has pointed out that the Colorado exit polls are very likely wrong. Which totally sucks. This seemed like a great theory what was an admittedly stand-out statistic. But what the hell, I'm leaving it up anyway, in commemoration of what might have been.