While Braley runs essentially even with these blue-collar women in the NBC/Marist survey, and slightly leads among them in the latest Quinnipiac Poll, the new NBC/Marist polls show that they prefer the Republican Senate nominee by 5 points in Kansas, 6 points in Arkansas, 19 points in Colorado, and 30 points in North Carolina; the UNH poll shows Brown leading with them by 25 points. "Honestly, it's not clear how much progress we are making with non-college white women," says one top Democratic pollster. "And when I say it's not clear, I mean its clear [we're not]."
Similar divisions among white women are evident when they are viewed by marital status. In the latest NBC/Marist surveys, Udall, Braley, Orman, and Pryor all hold double-digit advantages among single white women; only Hagan trails among them. But except for Orman, who runs essentially even, those other four candidates all trail among married white women, with deficits ranging from 5 points for Udall to fully 22 points for Hagan. (In all five races, Republicans lead among married men, usually by gaping margins. Single men mostly back the Republican in Arkansas, North Carolina, and Colorado and break slightly against him in Iowa and Kansas.)
The fissures among women are rooted in their attitudes on key issues. In the ABC/Washington Post survey, the noncollege white women say they trust Republicans over Democrats to handle the threat of ISIS by almost 3-to-1, to deal with immigration by more than 2-to-1, and to manage the economy by exactly 2-to-1. (Both college and noncollege white men also give the GOP big leads on those three issues, while minorities strongly prefer Democrats.)
In that survey, college-educated white women preferred Democrats on immigration, but tilted narrowly toward the GOP on the economy (46 percent to 39 percent) and decisively on the threat of terrorism (45 percent to 26 percent). In the Pew survey, college-educated white women, like their counterparts without a college degree, placed more trust in Republicans on all three issues.
But in both surveys, college-educated women were more likely than other whites to trust Democrats to defend the interests of people like them or the middle-class more broadly. Perhaps even more tellingly, in the ABC/Washington Post survey, college women preferred Democrats by 65 percent to 25 percent on "issues that are especially important to women," while the noncollege women split evenly between the parties on that question. That stark contrast captures both the power of social issues for Democrats with upscale white women-and their limits with the waitress moms.
In 2016, a strong performance among the growing populations of minorities and college-educated or single white women might be all Democrats need to hold the White House: Their support allowed Obama to win a relatively comfortable reelection in 2012 despite struggling among most other whites. But maintaining Senate control behind such a narrow coalition is a much stiffer challeng—especially when the road to a majority runs through so many interior states dominated by the older and blue-collar whites hardening in their alienation from the Democratic Party.