As our research shows, attitudes about abortion and attitudes about government-mandated insurance coverage for birth control are not strongly related. Americans view abortion largely as an issue of personal morality, akin to other “culture war” issues, such as gay rights and marijuana. By contrast, insurance coverage for birth control taps into attitudes about economic opportunity and the proper size and scope of government.
The 2014 ‘war on women’ likely was also different from 2012 because there wasn’t as stark a contrast between the parties. Republicans more deftly anticipated the Democratic line of attack, coordinating a message that emphasized support for over-the-counter access to birth control while sidestepping the government mandate on insurance coverage.
This approach contrasted sharply with 2012 Senate candidates such as Richard Mourdock (R-Indiana) and Todd Akin (R-Missouri), whose inartful comments about banning abortion even in cases of rape made national headlines and branded the party as extreme. Without these sorts of incendiary comments to dispute, the Democrats’ attempt to resurrect the “war on women” may have fallen flat.