Saturday, July 26, 2008

Unhitched and Voting

It's amazing how much your demographic makeup can determine how you'll vote on Election Day. Under 35? Educated? And minority? Predictable. There are exceptions, but for the most part a simple formula will give you the answer to how any one person is voting in America. Likewise, whether you are married or unmarried plays a critical role in determining your candidate of choice as a woman.

In 2004 - according to exit polls - unmarried women voted for John Kerry by a 62%-37% margin, but Kerry lost married women by 11 points to Bush.

So why is it that women change their party registration with their marriage license? I think that there are a couple of key issues at play. Firstly, women tend to be much more easily influenced by their husband's ideological beliefs than vice versa. Men - who are more likely to vote Republican - play a large role in converting their wives to vote similarly. Second, their socio-economic status plays a part. Unmarried women's annual household income is much less than married women. As a result, they tend to be more concerned about social welfare programs and reliant upon the government for health care, education, and employment programs than married women. And lastly, when women get married, and especially have children, their primary concerns often shift to "family values" issues and they become more attracted to issues promoted by the conservative ideology.

It's no secret that women these days are marrying and having children later in life. According to the Census Bureau, in the last decade the median age for marriage has increased by one year to 26.7 years for men and 25.1 for women.

Today, women are on their own for a longer period of time and therefore, have developed stronger convictions about their ideological beliefs. As the median married age gets older, will we see an upsurge in the number of women voting Democrat? Who knows.

What we do know is that in 2004 twenty million unmarried women stayed home on Election Day. We need to do everything we can to ensure that these women get out the vote in '08, especially considering that unmarried women form the fastest growing large bloc of voters.

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