Wait, did dads just shift towards the Democrats by 28 points?

Lotta hype for this result on Twitter today. I don’t buy it.

I mean, I buy that Fox News earnestly obtained and recorded these results in their new survey. I just don’t buy that the shift they’re seeing is anywhere near as profound in reality as it is in their poll.

Go back to the generic ballot question in Fox’s May result and you’ll find this, a familiar gender gap between women and men:

That tracks with expectations. Men lean Republican while women lean Democratic. And in a year that is, or was, shaping up to deliver a red wave, we’d expect dads to lean heavily Republican and women to lean only slightly Democratic — which is what we see in the results. Between COVID school closures and high inflation, we can guess that parents of both genders are less happy with Democrats than they usually are.

Now fast-forward to the generic ballot question in Fox’s new poll. The top line here is “Vote Democratic,” the second line is “Vote Republican.” Uh oh:

Is that remotely plausible? Dads went from favoring Republicans by a comfortable eight points to favoring Democrats by … 20? What?

“Morning Joe” thought it was plausible and floated a theory to explain it. Watch, then read on.

Yeah, again, I don’t buy it. For this reason: An enormous shift like that among fathers would certainly be accompanied by a sizable shift among mothers as well, even allowing for the fact that moms are starting from a higher baseline of Democratic support. If the “Morning Joe” theory of the “dad backlash” is correct, that fathers are newly incensed by the thought of their children not being able to abort an accidental pregnancy, why aren’t we seeing a major lurch leftward among outraged mothers for the same reason? Moms have gone from +6 Democratic to +13, a worrisome trend for Republicans post-Roe but not a sea change in opinion. It’s dads who have supposedly experienced the sea change — so much so that they’re now just about on par with mothers in their preference for a Democratic Congress.

Is the “Roe effect” really that pronounced, and more so than men among women? Or is this just an outlier-ish result based on a small sample size that’s being grossly over-read by excited Democrats and their fellow travelers?

Elliott Morris, a data journalist for The Economist, thinks it’s an artifact of a small sample size, which means a yuuuuuge margin of error.

Did dads shift 28 points towards the Democrats — or just four points?

Did Fox’s pollster even weight the poll to make sure that the number of dads surveyed properly reflects the percentage of dads across the population or is it askew and therefore not representative?

Which seems like the more likely explanation, that fathers are outraged by the Dobbs decision more so than mothers and have immediately torched their allegiance to the GOP en masse or that fathers are modestly more likely to prefer Dems now because they tilt pro-choice on balance like the rest of the wide population?

Also, since men overall in Fox’s poll continue to prefer Republicans to Democrats by nine points, 45/36, doesn’t that necessarily mean that men who aren’t dads prefer Republicans by a freakishly lopsided degree? Why would single men, whose lives will face more disruption from an unplanned pregnancy than married men, overwhelmingly prefer the party that wants to ban abortion?

Does any of that make sense?

I think it’s fine and even appropriate to bed-wet a little over the Fox topline numbers since they do show a shift towards the Democrats on the generic ballot across the total population over time. Their last four polls have been R+7, R+3, R+3, and now a tie at 41 percent apiece. America’s dads haven’t all become liberals overnight but it’s plausible that in the wake of the Dobbs ruling a small but meaningful number are more sympathetic to liberals than they usually are. And it’s also plausible that some dads who continue to prefer Republicans on balance over Democrats might not be comfortable with where the GOP is headed on abortion. Inevitably, differences are arising among righties on how far to go in regulating the practice:

South Carolina Rep. Micah Caskey, who sits on the committee tasked with drafting a new abortion ban, said Republican lawmakers are increasingly feeling pressure to support more restrictive abortion proposals lest they lose the label โ€œpro-life.โ€

โ€œI view all of this with frustration and contempt for the crayon-level discussion of our public discourse on this issue,โ€ Caskey said. โ€œIโ€™m told that a year ago I was a crazy fanatic for supporting a six-week ban, and now the goal post has been moved such that if I donโ€™t support a complete and total ban whatsoever that Iโ€™m not pro-life?โ€

I doubt there’s a Republican strategist anywhere in the country who’s eager to see total bans take effect before November, knowing that any nascent backlash to the end of Roe can always intensify if fencesitters become convinced that the GOP has gone too far with restrictions. The shift among dads, although doubtless much smaller than suggested by Fox’s dad, may be a warning sign.

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David Strom 4:01 PM on October 05, 2022