Washington (CNN) - A majority of Americans, and women in particular, do not believe the Republican Party understands the problems and concerns of women today.
That's the headline from a new national poll that comes as Republicans push back against Democratic claims the GOP is out of touch on female issues and is waging a war on women.
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According to the CNN/ORC International poll, which was released Friday, 55% of Americans surveyed say the GOP doesn't understand women. That number rises to 59% among all women and 64% among women over 50.
"That last number is intriguing, since older women are more likely to vote Republican than younger women. Yet younger women don't have as much of a problem with the GOP on this measure," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said.
"That suggests that the problem women have with the Republican Party may be related less to the policy positions the GOP takes and more related to the attitudes behind those policies and the tone the party takes when addressing them," he added.
Some controversial comments by Republicans over the past few years have fed Democratic claims the GOP is out of touch with women. The highest ranking female House Republican tells CNN her party has a messaging problem.
"When you look at our position on issues, a lot of times majority of Americans agree with our positions. But it's the way that we talk about it that doesn't resonate and we have to do a better job," said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state. "I think it's fair to say there have been some comments which are offensive and they're not representative of the entire Republican Party."
"There's more work to be done. Republicans are good at speaking from our head about facts and figures. We also need to speak from our heart and make sure people know that we care," added McMorris Rodgers, the House Republican Conference chair and a rising political star who last week gave the GOP response to the State of the Union.
Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers of North Carolina agrees the problem is more about tone than policy.
"We're concerned about education for their children. We're concerned about jobs, we're concerned about the success of women in this country. The problem is, for whatever reason, we haven't been able to articulate it as well as we should."
Republican women questioned in the poll say the GOP understands their problems and concerns, but the survey indicates independent women don't agree. Fifty-nine percent of independent women said they weren't pleased with the GOP's track record on such issues.
According to the survey, the Democratic Party does not face the same concerns: 63% of all Americans and 62% of American women say that the Democrats understand women.
Pay a problem
President Barack Obama received a loud applause in his State of the Union address when he spoke up in support of pay equity. McMorris Rodgers admits that by opposing Democratic plans to address the inequity for women without putting out their own plan, the GOP faces turning off women.
"Republicans need to recognize that, to be part of solution, in general bringing these work place laws into 21st century," McMorris Rodgers said.
Ellmers agreed, adding that "women across this country believe there's a discrepancy in equal pay for women so this is something we have to be fighting for."
The take at Tammy's Diner
At Tammy's Diner in a northern Virginia congressional district up for grabs in November's midterm elections, the GOP's women problem is on display.
"The Democratic Party is more aware of what is best for a woman, said Peggy Mackey, a Republican.
Michael Bertleson agreed.
"I think they're not as sensitive to women's issues as the Democrats are," he said.
"The more we get involved in government issues, the better things will be for women, urged Jean Bertleson, a Republican. "Get some more women in there."
And that's what Ellmers is trying to do. She is part of a party effort to recruit more female candidates.
"We're fighting so hard to get more women elected. we have to be more representative of the American public, Ellmers said.
But she and her party have a long way to go. Right now only 19 of the 232 House Republicans are women.
The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International from January 31-February 2, with 1,010 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.
CNN Senior Producer Paul Courson contributed to this report.