|The so-called "marriage gap" in
American voting patterns has been evident in most federal
elections in recent years. The overwhelming majority of
married voters choose a Republican candidate while a super
majority of unmarried voters select a Democrat.
That pattern was broken last week
because so many married people defected from their Republican
inclinations and supported a Democratic contender for Congress.
This defection probably cost the Republicans control of
The percent of married people who
turn out to vote is generally disproportionately higher than
their numbers in the general population. The reverse is
true for unmarried voters.
Last week's election fits that
pattern, with the exception that married voters turned out in
even higher numbers than usual. That should have favored
Republican candidates except that something unusual apparently
happened to cause so many married people to vote Democratic.
Dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq, perhaps?
Married adults comprise about 58
percent of the adult population in the United States. Last
week's national exit poll showed that 68 percent of voters were
married. By comparison, 58 percent of voters in 2004 were
married as were 57 percent of those who voted in 2000.
In 2004, 60 percent of married
voters selected George W. Bush as their choice with only 40
percent choosing John Kerry. The opposite was true for
unmarried voters, with a 40-60 split favoring Kerry.
The current election saw nearly
equal numbers of married men and married women sending a signal
of disapproval to the Republicans.
Some 35 percent of voters were
married men and they favored Republicans to Democrats by only 51
percent to 47 percent. About 33 percent of voters were
married women and they split their votes by an even narrower
Although unmarried voters turned
out in smaller numbers, the gap in their voting patterns was
huge. Some 14 percent of voters were unmarried men and 62
percent of them supported a Democrat while 36 percent supported
Unmarried women, who comprised 18
percent of voters, had the most pronounced Democratic-Republican
ratio of all marital status sub-groups, with 66 percent favoring
Democrats and 32 percent voting for Republicans.
Getting unmarried women to the
polls this year was a goal of Women's Voices -- Women Vote, a
group devoted to increasing the number of single women voters.
Their campaign seems to have
worked well in places such as Pennsylvania and Missouri.
An exit poll found
that unmarried women constituted 18 percent of
those who voted in Pennsylvania this year. That
was several percentage points higher than in
states where there was no special outreach to
"women on their own" -- a phrase the group uses
to describe unmarried women. Unmarried
women in Pennsylvania favored Democrat Bob Casey
Jr. over GOP incumbent Sen. Rick Santorum, by 69
percent to 31 percent.
comprised 19 percent of the Missouri electorate
last week – a slightly percent higher than the
In the Missouri race for U.S. Senate, 61 percent
of the roughly 400,000 single women who voted
picked Claire McCaskill over Republican
incumbent Jim Talent. That calculates to a
100,000-vote edge for McCaskill within the
unmarried female demographic. McCaskill
won by fewer than 50,000 votes.
must be pleased with the support they received
from unmarried women, Republicans must be
scratching their heads in disbelief over the
defection of one of their most loyal
constituencies -- married moms.
Republicans have long counted on married moms
for support. In the 2002 congressional
elections, more than half of married moms voted
for Republicans while only 35 percent sided with
Democrats. Two years later, married moms
preferred Bush over Sen. John Kerry by 56
percent to 42 percent.
unusual happened this year. Married moms,
making up 14 percent of voters, split their vote
evenly between Republicans and Democrats.
Party loyalty did not seem to be
much of an issue in this election. More than 90 percent of
registered Republicans voted for Republican candidates with a
similar percentage of registered Democrats voting for their
The name of the political game
seems to be capturing the support of "Independents." In
the current election, 26 percent of voters identified themselves
as such. They favored Democrats over Republicans by a
margin of 57 percent to 39 percent.
It would seem that the Democratic
and Republican parties have some homework to do. Could some
surveys and focus groups be in the making which focus on the
politics of marital status among Independent voters?
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
firstname.lastname@example.org. Unmarried America is a nonprofit
information service for unmarried employees, consumers, taxpayers, and