Suddenly, it feels like 2002. Democrats got creamed in midterm elections that year because the women voters they had relied on throughout the Clinton years deserted them. In 2000, women favored Democratic congressional candidates by nine points. In 2002, that advantage disappeared entirely. The biggest reason: 9/11. In polls that year, according to Gallup, women consistently expressed more fear of terrorism that men. And that fear pushed them toward the GOP, which they trusted far more to keep the nation safe. As then-Senator Joe Biden declared after his party’s midterm shellacking, “soccer moms are security moms now.”
Unfortunately for President Obama, the security moms are back. And as a result, the levee Democrats were counting on to protect against a GOP hurricane is starting to crumble.
Although today’s terrorism scare doesn’t rival the aftermath of 9/11, the parallels to 2002 are striking nonetheless. As a result of the ISIS beheadings, the percentage of Americans “very worried” about terrorism has just hit a seven-year high. Once again, women are more afraid than men. According to a CNN poll last week, women are 18 points more likely to say they are “very” or “somewhat” worried that someone in their family will be the victim of terrorism. According to Pew, they are six points more likely to call terrorism “very important” to their vote this fall. In a recent piece about “Walmart moms” who participated in focus groups in Des Moines and Little Rock, my colleague Molly Ball noticed the trend: “The women in both groups expressed pervasive worry about violence .… This emphasis on security was a departure from previous groups, many of which I've covered in the past few years, in which economic anxiety has overwhelmingly dominated.”