- (Reuters/Larry Downing)
President Barack Obama may be having a tough campaign year but his popularity with a major voting bloc – women – is on the rise, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll. The reason boils down to jobs and the how the president is framing the debate on contraception and women's health issues.
Only a few months ago, Obama's relationship with female voters was taking a major hit. In December, a similar poll found 43 percent of women approved of the president's performance compared with 53 percent now.
One of the primary reasons cited has to do with the recent debate that would mandate employers, including those with religious objections, to provide free contraceptives through insurance programs.
After implementing the mandate in January, the administration did propose what they termed a "compromise" a few weeks later that only further ignited the debate over religious freedom and government intrusion.
"Women are used to making decisions and running their lives," Linda Young with the National Women's Political Caucus told AP. "To hear the right to contraception questioned in 2012 is shocking, and it's gotten a lot of people's attention."
But not all of the women citing Obama's rising popularity are political insiders. Patricia Speyerer is an 87-year-old, GOP-leaning independent voter from Macomb, Miss.
"Republicans are making a big mistake with this contraception talk, and I'm pretty sure that they are giving (the election) to Obama," Speyerer told AP. "It's a stupid thing."
The other issue that seems to be helping Obama is what both parties and candidates maintain is the number one topic on voters' minds and that the economy.
Obama's performance on the economy and unemployment also jumped by 10 percent among women voters. This is most likely due to improving employment data, combined with the White House's ability to take credit for more Americans working.
GOP women disagree with Obama taking all the credit for the nation's limited economic recovery.
"Women are not monolithic in their voting patterns," Penny Nance, who heads up Concerned Women for America, told The Christian Post. "Married women and Hispanic women tend to favor more conservative values and white, single females under 30 rarely vote. So by and large I think the Republican candidates are in better shape with women voters."
Obama bests Romney 54 percent to 41 percent among women and tops Santorum 56 percent to 40 percent. Pundits view this as important data since Republicans need to do well among female voters if they have a chance of beating the president in 2012.
The AP-GfK poll was conducted Feb. 16-20 and surveyed 1,000 adults, 485 of whom were women, on both landlines and cell phones. The margin of error is +/- 6 percentage points among women.