KEY WOMEN VOTERS
Burning Glass Consulting conducts on-going research with
women voters, including: national and state polling, online
discussions, focus groups, and panel research.
The volume of research we have done gives us a good
understanding of how swing women and soft Republican
women view Planned Parenthood.
We recently conducted a survey of 500 women in
battleground states to measure awareness and impact of
the Planned Parenthood videos.
On September 8th, we conducted focus groups with women
from Loudoun and Fairfax counties in Virginia. These women
were Republicans or independents who were pro-choice or
For our recent survey of 500 women, we terminated any “Strong
Democrats” and any “not strong Democrats” who favor abortion in all
cases. We terminated any “Strong Republicans” who oppose abortion in
all cases or whose only exception is to save the life of the mother.
Nearly all the women were from battleground states: Colorado, Florida,
Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Partisan Composition Age Composition Abortion Position
11% Strong Republican 15% 18-34 10% Illegal in all cases
17% Not strong Republican 17% 35-44 8% Legal only life of mother
15% Ind, lean Republican 24% 45-54 36% Legal for rape, incest, life
27% Independent 23% 55-64 26% Legal first trimester
17% Ind, lean Democratic 22% 65+ 19% Legal in all cases
14% Not strong Democrat
Women are not necessarily familiar with the Planned Parenthood
videos or details of the scandal. Many have intentionally kept this
story at arm’s length – the majority of women surveyed say they are
following the story not too closely or not at all. Further, only 18% of
these women had seen any of the videos.
The women tested who are most aware and, consequently, most
outraged are pro-life Republican voters, but this outrage is not shared
by all women. Our focus groups showed these stories are moving
around in pro-life circles, but not outside of them.
Focus groups also showed that women who have looked into the
Planned Parenthood videos don’t know what to believe. They think
there is something wrong, but they can’t tell how deep the problem
is. They question the motives of Center for Medical Progress and
wonder if the scandal is politically motivated by Republicans who
want to stop abortion.
Of the women tested, most don’t associate Planned
Parenthood with abortion. They are much more likely to say:
birth control (70%), education (55%) and health screenings
Women tested often have had interaction with Planned
Parenthood themselves or know someone who has and that
largely positive interaction informs their opinion.
Planned Parenthood is a strong brand with a reservoir of
goodwill built up among many women. Even after this story
broke, two-thirds of women tested said their view of Planned
Parenthood remained unchanged or was more positive. It is
seen, even by some pro-life women, as a recognizable and
trustworthy place for women to get reproductive health
care. It is seen as fulfilling a unique and important service for
women who, otherwise, would not have options.
Planned Parenthood Brand
The women in focus groups reject the idea that a network of
community health providers could replace Planned
Though a slight majority of women polled support redirecting
funds, focus groups discussion revealed…
Women wouldn’t know where to go. Everyone knows
How would this even work? They can’t visualize what these
community health centers are (part of a county health
department, a hospital network, or private, for profit).
Whereas funding to Planned Parenthood goes to one
organization and is directed to affiliates, alternate
organization funding would be spread among hundreds or
thousands of non-connected health care providers which
would dilute the impact of the funds and be an oversight
Because our survey showed many of the women had not seen any of
the videos, we showed three videos to the women in the focus groups,
as well as the Cecile Richards rebuttal statement.
While the videos made the women uncomfortable, it was
surprising how they developed an explanation to relieve their
dissonance - that’s how doctors and medical professionals talk or
fetal tissue donation is something good that can come as a result
of an abortion.
However, three key questions emerged in the focus group discussion
that cause concern and doubts:
Did they make a profit? Why would employees be bartering for
prices if it is a standard operating procedure?
Did the women give their consent?
Does Planned Parenthood act in the best interests of their patient
and with no other motivation?
Attitudes after more exposure
In focus groups, a strong consensus emerged for a thorough
investigation into Planned Parenthood practices. Not a political
examination in which no Planned Parenthood employees are asked
questions, but a real on-the-ground, wide-ranging look at their
The women tested saw an investigation as necessary to create
needed transparency and accountability to fix whatever problems
exist; but were strong in their beliefs that the investigation should
not presuppose corruption.
They said there are many examples of investigations that have
then led to reform.
The women tested are not ready for a government shutdown over
the defunding Planned Parenthood.
They would however, vote against a candidate who opposed an
investigation into Planned Parenthood practices.
Investigate, don’t defund
The women tested, soft Republicans, independents, college-
educated suburban women, and younger women, will be
instrumental in the outcome of the 2016 election.
They will not support a perceived attack on abortion. The minute
this looks like a Republican end-game to end abortion the
women are absolutely unequivocal in their support for Planned
They do not support a call for the immediate defunding of
Planned Parenthood or an imminent government shutdown.
But they overwhelmingly support focusing on an investigation into
the organization’s practices first, allowing for due process, before
mounting a full court press on defunding.
These women want their legislators to push for a full and
complete investigation into Planned Parenthood. Democratic
opposition to an investigation is seen as unreasonable and
They strongly believe that Planned Parenthood has been less
than transparent about its practices.
They further think that Planned Parenthood receives significant
government funds and needs to be accountable.
The videos have raised doubts about their practices and motives.
Their motive should always be a patient’s best interests and what
was seen on the videos calls that into question.
An overwhelming majority of the women polled
supported the following statements:
Government funding of Planned Parenthood is a
sensitive issue, and it is important to respect that good
people have sincerely held beliefs on both sides of the
issue. (87% agree)
People who care about women’s health can disagree
about government funding of Planned Parenthood.
Whether Planned Parenthood can receive government
funding is an important issue, but it’s even more
important that the health care needs of women are
met. (87% agree)