|Under normal circumstances, the
so-called "marriage gap" in voting patterns could have given
Republicans a reasonable chance of retaining a majority in the
United States House of Representatives this November. But
with the media fanning the flames of the Mark Foley scandal,
this is not an ordinary election year.
The "marriage gap" is a dynamic in
which a majority of married voters tend to support Republican
candidates and a majority of unmarried voters lean in favor of
Democrats. Since 65 percent of voters in the 2004 federal
elections were married, Democrats would have had an uphill
battle to win a majority of seats in the House of
Representatives this year, if normal voting patterns were to
Of the 435 members of the House
of Representatives, there are 230 Republicans, 201 Democrats,
and one Independent, with three seats vacant.
Democrats need to pick up 16 seats to take control of the House,
which has had a Republican majority since 1995.
USA Today recently did an
analysis of the marital status of adults in all of the
congressional districts. The research showed that four of
the five Republican house members with the lowest percent of
married people in their districts are in competitive re-election
races this year.
congressional districts that have the highest marriage rates;
Democrats control those with the lowest," says the USA Today
analysis. "Most serious Democratic challenges this fall
are in Republican-controlled House districts that have lower
Of the 38
Republican seats considered vulnerable, 27 have "fewer married
people than found in the average GOP district," USA Today said.
status and voting trends was the focus of a recent study
released last month at a meeting of the American Political
Science Association. The researchers concluded that
married citizens vote more than people in any other household or
living arrangement. Although married people account for 58
percent of the adult population, they constitute 65 percent of
people who show up at the polls to vote.
people generally make more money than singles, are more
likely to own a home, and are more prone to have children, they
also tend to be more conservative. As a result, they are
more likely to vote Republican.
the Foley factor -- a scandal which is likely to scramble the
usual "marriage gap" dynamics and thus prompt many married
voters to vote for Democratic congressional candidates.
Congressman Mark Foley recently quit his job after his overtures
to teenage boys was discovered. While Foley's e-mails to
male congressional pages got him into trouble with the American
public, that same public has been wondering why those who
control Congress -- the Republican leadership -- allowed this
debacle to continue for so long.
A Gallup Poll
conducted for USA Today one week ago shows that voters are so
upset with the way Republicans handled the Foley matter, they
are likely to punish Republican congressional candidates come
Democrats have a 23-point lead
over Republicans in every group of people questioned — likely
voters, registered voters and adults — as to which party's
congressional candidate would get their vote, the Gallup Poll
revealed. Three other recent polls released by CNN, ABC
News/Washington Post and CBS News/New York Times, show Democrats
leading the congressional ballot by 13 to 21 points.
The CBS News/New York Times poll
shows that even Republican voters are upset with the Republican
leadership in Congress. "By overwhelming numbers,
including majorities of Republicans, Americans said that most
members of Congress do not follow the same rules of behavior as
average Americans, and that most members of Congress consider
themselves above the law," a New York Times story reported.
Married moms constitute a group
that Republicans have long counted on for consistent support.
In the 2002 congressional elections, more than half of married
moms sided with Republicans while only 35 percent voted with
Democrats. Two years later, married moms preferred Bush over
Democratic Sen. John Kerry by 56 percent to 42 percent.
But the support of this
constituency for Republicans is eroding this year. An
Associated Press poll conducted earlier this month found that
support of married women with children at home is now evenly
divided between Democrats and Republicans.
When Republicans can't count on
votes from a majority of married moms, can a switch of control
in Congress -- from Republicans to Democrats -- be far behind?
Unmarried America 2006
Thomas F. Coleman, Executive Director of Unmarried America, is an
attorney with 33 years of experience in singles' rights, family
diversity, domestic partner benefits, and marital status discrimination.
Each week he adds a new commentary to Column One: Eye on Unmarried
email@example.com. Unmarried America is a nonprofit
information service for unmarried employees, consumers, taxpayers, and