Programs & Tools
Unmarried women represent one of the largest untapped pools of potential voters and issue advocates and they have the potential to have an enormous influence on American politics, election outcomes and policy debates. That’s if they register, turnout and act on their progressive values.
According to the latest Census data, unmarried women are one of the largest and fastest-growing demographic groups in our nation. They are 25% of the voting eligible population currently (53 million); by 2012, they are expected to be about 55 million strong. In addition to their sheer size and growth rates, they are also the key to reaching other politically under-participating, under-represented groups. They are the largest segment and the primary driver of the Rising American Electorate (RAE.) Together, unmarried women, people of color and young people make up the majority (53 percent) of the eligible U.S. voters. And unmarried women make up a large percentage of the Latino and African-American populations and of young people under 30.
But the RAE and single women are considerably less likely to register or vote than their married counterparts and their level of political involvement falls short of their potential.
When they do turn out — they drive progressive victories as they did in 2006 and 2008 nationally and in some races in 2010. But 2010 proved they cannot be taken for granted: even though unmarried women made up more than 25 percent of the voting eligible population, they were only 21.2 percent of the 2010 vote; the entire RAE was 53 percent of the voting eligible population, but were only 42 percent of the 2010 vote.
One of the top priorities at WVWVAF is to close that gap. Reversing the under-representation of unmarried women and other segments of the RAE will strengthen our democracy.
WVWVAF uses innovative research-driven, control group-tested models, programs, messaging and ads to target, engage, persuade and turnout unmarried women. WVWVAF uses direct mail, phone calls, traditional and social media, including Twitter, Facebook and phone apps, and paid advertising to convince these hard to find, highly mobile women that elections matter and they have a stake in the outcomes and to ensure that America’s political discourse recognizes and addresses their needs and concerns.
WVWVAF programs provide unmarried women with ongoing information about policy choices, candidates and changes in voting laws — and presents this information tested for its persuasiveness without political hype. WVWVAF does not formally endorse candidates, but provides information as a trusted messenger in a non-political way that resonates with the lives and hopes of unmarried women and the other groups — people of color and young voters who make up the RAE, 53 percent of the voting eligible population and the base of progressive supporters.
In 2010 candidates and parties failed to recognize the need to include unmarried women in the political conversation and progressives missed an opportunity to add to overall turnout and influence the policy debates — a mistake WVWVAF is determined to make sure is not repeated.
“Registering and turning out unmarried women voters was pivotal to my reelection in 2010 and their participation will be key in 2012. I know from personal experience, no group does a better job of registering and mobilizing these increasingly important voters than the Women’s Voices. Women Vote Action Fund.” Senator Michael Bennett – D-CO
Why Do Unmarried Women Matter?
Martial status is one of the most powerful predictors of participation and preference. Unmarried women are one of the largest and fastest-growing demographic groups all across America and their values are more progressive than those of married women.
According to Census data, between 2000 and 2010 unmarried women added more to their numbers (8.3 million) than any other demographic group and they are projected to add almost two million more before November, 2012:
The numbers of unmarried women are increasing all across the country:
The Marriage Gap
Unmarried women are remarkably different from their married counterparts in their progressive values, their choice of candidates and causes to support. This holds true across all demographic groups, including age, race and education.
The marriage gap — the difference between how unmarried and married women register and vote — proves far more determinative than the gender gap in the outcomes of elections. The marriage gap (30 points) in the midterm was double the gender gap (13 points) — with unmarried women supporting Democratic candidates by 30 points more than married women.
In 2010, the level of support that unmarried women gave progressive candidates was down from previous years, particularly the high-water mark of 2008, when they supported President Obama by 70-29. There is much work to be done to reach, reassure and persuade these key voters to engage in the public debate and the 2012 elections. This is the only way to get them the level of representation and voice they deserve.
WVWVAF Tools and Programs
Surveys and Focus Groups
WVWVAF conducts quantitative and qualitative research to track the congressional, candidate, party and issue support and enthusiasm levels, and opinions, of unmarried women:
WVWVAF partners with Democracy Corps on quarterly public opinion survey research (hyperlink to research section) to track changes in the interests and election enthusiasm of unmarried women. WVWVAF also uses this data to inform decision makers and candidates about the concerns and needs of this rapidly-growing, seriously under-represented constituency.
WVWVAF also works with Lake Research Partners to produce reports on demographic trends and the potential voting impact of unmarried women [hyperlink].
Control group tests
To increase voter participation, WVWVAF uses randomized, controlled clinical trials similar to those used in medical research. The results of these tests, including our WVWVAF persuasion mail test, are shared with other civic engagement groups.
WVWVAF Persuasion Mail Test
In keeping with its mission of testing and measuring the best ways to motivate voters, the Women’s Voice Women Vote Action Fund conducted an unusual experiment that tested the most fundamental assumptions about political persuasion mail. The results have surprised political practitioners across the nation. (hyperlink)
WVWVAF programs have been made more effective and efficient by introducing groundbreaking modeling that targets voters who share the same values, advocacy modeling to predict who will and will not take an action in support or opposition to public policy debates and information and persuasion modeling.
Advocacy: In 2009, WVWVAF built a pioneering advocacy model that could predict who was and was not likely to take an action on a progressive piece of legislation or issue position. The advocacy model, based on phone calls into legislative offices, provided a 45% lift and provided a more cost-effective and efficient means to reach out to often underrepresented voters. We recently began work on a model that would predict who would return a hand written note to a legislator’s office — the gold standard in terms of communicating to elected officials.
Information and Persuasion Modeling: In 2012 WVWVAF is developing a voter persuasion model, as much of the current data on who is a persuadable voter may fall short. One important variable to persuasion is the level of information. WVWVAF also examined the relationship between lack of information and persuadability, with the least informed voters being the most likely to move or change their mind on an issue when provided data. WVWVAF is designing models and programs to boost RAE information levels and to understand who is and is not a persuasion target per se.
Develop breakthrough models including an Information Level / Persuasion Model. WVWVAF has completed a voter information model that identifies voters who are lower on the political knowledge scale and are therefore more persuadable. Using voter information as a key predictor we will next develop a next-generation persuasion model to target key segments of the electorate for information and persuasion programs on candidates and ballot initiatives. This will be a breakthrough for persuasion programs and will be validated on prior experiments conducted by the VPC, the Analyst Institute, and AFL-CIO.
WVWVAF plans to build on this progress by developing new modeling that would try to predict persuadability; as WVWVAF expands its work to include more persuasion efforts, it is critical to find ways to target these voters efficiently and effectively.
Voter Education Campaigns
We will be working with national and state partners on a variety of initiatives. Elements of that work include:
Legislative Advocacy Calls: Generate legislative advocacy patch-thru calls by calling RAE voters about upcoming legislative votes on important policy issues. The purpose is to generate citizen input into the legislative process and educate voters about the actions of their state and congressional representatives. [?]
Legislative Advocacy Mailing: Generate legislative advocacy post-cards by sending mailings to RAE voters on upcoming legislative votes on important policy issues. The purpose is to use our refined model to generate and increase citizen input into the legislative process. We also want to build a break-through model that will predict who will write a personalized handwritten note — so much more effective than an email or patch-through call.
In 2011, WVWVAF ran a very promising and successful program in Wisconsin during the fight for workers’ rights, mailing letters to 25,000 Wisconsin RAE households urging the recipients to write personal postcards to Governor Walker asking him to back down on his demand that state workers give up their collective bargaining rights. The response rate was exceptionally high, over 4 percent, and generated more than 1,000 handwritten postcards returned to the Governor. WVWVAF’s goal is to repeat this type of mailing program and build a first time ever model that predicts who will return a hand-written note to a legislator in support of an issue position.
In 2010, WVWVAF worked with in-state partners and used television, radio and on-line advertising to educate unmarried women about candidate positions on issues of importance to them:
Colorado U.S. Senate race:
“Better” Radio Mp3 Clip
The Action Fund has a history of successful state partnerships: advocacy calls were made in Maine, New Hampshire, and Ohio, and both calls and mailings were made in Wisconsin where WVWVAF joined the fight to stand up for unmarried women and the millions of hardworking Americans who are being harmed by the anti-worker budget proposals. Specifically, WVWVAF worked with in-state partners to use our groundbreaking lists and models to place calls to unmarried women and the rest of the RAE—patching them through to voice their concern to their state senators. Our program in New Hampshire generated hundreds of calls into the statehouse from RAE voters.
The WWVAF in 2012
In 2012, WVWVAF is involved in a variety of states in order to make it clear to unmarried women their stake in the election and inform them of the candidates’ positions on their key issues. We will focus in areas where there are the most competitive races – including for President, Senate and Congress as well as other down ballot races.