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Unmarried Women, People of Color and Young Voters Delivered the White House

November 8, 2012

New poll finds Romney’s “47 percent” comment, the economy and women’s issues played major role in turnout and election

Washington, DC, November 8, 2012 — On Tuesday, demographics once again proved to be destiny for Barack Obama.  The fastest growing demographic groups in America — unmarried women, Latinos and young people — combined forces with African-American voters to put the President back in the White House.  And a new Democracy Corps/Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund (WVWVAF) poll, conducted on Election Day and Election Eve, finds that unmarried women drove up support for the President because of his position on the economy and issues related to health care and reproductive rights.

The Rising American Electorate (RAE) — unmarried women, minorities and young people — made up 48 percent of the electorate on Tuesday and delivered the election for President Obama. The President captured 93 percent of the African American vote, 71 percent of the Latino vote, 67 percent of unmarried women and 60 percent of 18-29 year-olds. According to WVWVAF president Page Gardner, “More RAE voters overall and unmarried women in particular turned out in 2012 than 2008, and they made the difference in races from the top to the bottom of the ticket.”

The percentage of unmarried women who made up the electorate jumped three percentage points — up from 20 percent in 2008 to 23 percent in 2012 — according to the 2008 and 2012 exit polls.  The number of unmarried Americans, male and female, accounted for the largest change in the composition in the electorate–jumping 6 points to 40 percent in 2012.  Latinos increased their share of the electorate by 1%, moving from 9% in 2008 to 10% in 2012. And young voters made up a 19 percent share of the electorate in 2012, a one percentage point gain from 2008.

“Unmarried women drove the RAE turnout and margins,” Gardner explained. “They make up almost 40 (39.4) percent of the African- American population, close to 30 (28.7) percent of the Latino population and about a third of all young voters (32.7 percent).  They had an enormous influence on Tuesday’s election.”

The Democracy Corps/WVWVAF poll findings make it clear that a combination of Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” comments and the belief that Obama deserved more time to fix the economy played a significant role in driving up the support of unmarried women – women who are never married, divorced, widowed or separated. Also important were women’s issues — especially health care and reproductive rights issues; these issues were seen as not only health issues but also as basic economic issues.

The poll findings confirm that single women — as a unique constituency and as the largest segment of the RAE — clearly have the power to decide elections. The exit polls also confirm that the marriage gap – the difference between how married and unmarried women vote – is a key predictor of political participation and preference. “The marriage gap dwarfed the gender gap as it has since 1992 and needs to be understood as determinative in terms of participation rates  and preference. The number of unmarried women will continue to grow and so will their political power,” noted Greenberg.  Unmarried women voted 67-31 for Obama; married women chose Romney over Obama 53-46, creating a marriage gap of 43 points. The gender gap was 18 points.

The Voter Participation Center, the sister organization to the Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund, has long recognized the political importance of the Rising American Electorate. For the past year, the VPC has been sending millions of pieces of direct mail to unmarried women, minorities and young people across the nation, making it convenient for them to vote. The VPC helped register more than 850,000 qualified Americans for this election alone, and has helped register more than 2 million voters since the founding of the VPC in 2004.

For more information, please visit or

Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund
Voter Participation Center
(202) 659-9570


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