By: Patricia Murphy
Romney’s polling fine with married women, but he’s trailing Obama with single women by nearly 30 points—a gap that could prove fatal in November. Patricia Murphy reports on the message that could win them over.
In the weeks after an NBC News poll showed Mitt Romney losing women voters to President Obama by 20 points, an alarmed Romney began to put women out front in his campaign. Ann Romney stepped forward as his chief surrogate, women were placed behind him at events to show a female-friendly audience, and when Governor Romney began to refer to an entrepreneur in his stump speech, he pointedly referred to the business leader as a “she.”
But when unmarried women are polled, they go for Obama by a 28-point margin, making a 37-point marriage gap that could spell the end of Romney’s presidential ambitions unless he can win over more unmarried women or increase turnout among men and married women enough to blunt the impact of that gap.
“Unmarried women made up 22.2 percent of the electorate in 2008,” said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster who studies voting trends among women. “And in the end Obama beat McCain with a record 41-point margin between married and unmarried women. If unmarried women turn out in the same numbers … again, that would make victory very hard for Romney.”
Although the numbers are clear, it’s less clear why so many single women prefer Obama over Romney, while their married counterparts vote in the opposite direction.
Frank Newport, editor in chief of Gallup, said the gap can be partially explained by other demographic factors that affect single women.
“African-Americans are less likely to be married than whites, and 9 out of 10 support the president,” Newport said. “Also young people, particularly under the age of 30, are more likely to support Obama and less likely to be married. Nonmarried people are much less likely to be religious, and people who are more religious are less likely to support Obama. A lot of these things go together.”
Conversely, Newport said, married women tend to be more conservative, more religious, and more likely to vote Republican. But at all age levels and in all demographics, a woman’s marital status affects her voting choices above and beyond all other factors.
Single women in 2012 are driven by their own economic worries and their judgment about which contender can best help to solve them.
“A lot of these women have been particularly hit by the economic downturn,” said Page Gardner, the founder of Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund, a 501(c)(4) that conducts extensive polling among single women. “Their lives are very stretched and stressed, their earnings are lower, they are less likely to have health insurance, their unemployment rates are higher, they are much more likely to have skipped going to the doctor.”
WVWV recently completed polling that showed unmarried women particularly worried about cuts to Medicare and Medicaid proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan and passed by House Republicans.
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