A Walk Down the Aisle to Republicanville?

In Ruth Rosen’s latest piece for The Nation, she discusses Women Really On Their Own–i.e. single women voters. While it has effectively been drilled into our heads that 22 million single women didn’t vote in the last election, Rosen explores the impact that “single” status is having on the vote. Her conclusion–“Memo to politicians and the political parties: The difference between married and unmarried women’s political views is greater and more decisive than the gender gap.” (sigh). It turns out that there is a *huge* difference in how the single gal and married gal votes.
Recent polling data from Democracy Corps, found that single women favor Kerry over Bush by almost 26%, while married women prefer Bush over Kerry by 2%. Ugh. And a National Annenberg Election Survey taken in July found that out of 1,641 adults polled, 55% of married women supported Bush’s job in the White House, while only 43% of single women approved. The poll found a similar “marriage gap” among women on questions of Bush’s handling of the economy, the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq. When respondents were asked about abortion, 28% of married women said they strongly favor banning all abortion compared with 19% of single women. While both of those numbers scare me, that’s a *big* gap.
Adam Clymer, political director of the survey, hypothesized that single respondents were more negative towards Bush because they tend to have lower incomes and be younger. Rosen also chalks up the gap to greater economic security among married women. Is it really that simple, though? If I slip on a wedding ring and become privy to an economic bump up, will I suddenly fall *that* out of touch? I’m sorry, but I don’t understand how a walk down the aisle would suddenly land me in bed with the Bush regime. (sigh).
Rosen also notes that for all of the discussion of the Sex and the City voter at the start of the election season, neither candidate has really done much to reach out to single women. “Instead of addressing the everyday security needs of “women on their own,” both candidates pandered to (largely married) “security moms” who were supposedly obsessed by the prospect of terrorist attacks…True, John Kerry and John Edwards went on talk shows popular with women, but they talked about how they would fight terrorism. And yes, Bush’s website has a section called “W Stands for Women,” but it does not address concerns these women view as critical to their lives. It was only during the last few weeks of the campaign that Kerry rolled out a new stump speech that directly addressed women’s economic security.”
Chris Desser, co-director of Women’s Voices. Women Vote, notes that, “[N]early one-third of unmarried women polled said their main reason for not voting is that they believe their lives will not improve, no matter who is elected.” While there are undoubtedly many *very* strong economic & reproductive rights arguments for how Kerry will substantially impact the lives of women if elected, it’s a shame that we’re nearing the eve of the election and finding that Kerry hasn’t made a strong enough pitch to inspire the potential mass of young, single women voters.
Come on, I’m looking for your thoughts. Like, why do *you* think there is such a big “marriage gap” among the ladies? And how inspired do you feel about stepping into the voter’s box on Tuesday? Other thoughts?

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12 Comments

  1. Posted October 30, 2004 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    I am continually surprised why pundits skirt the obvious when talking about the gap between how married and single women vote–married women tend to have a husband pressuring them to vote conservative where single women don’t. That’s enough to make up the gap right there.

  2. mythago
    Posted October 30, 2004 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    I suspect that many married women feel more that issues like abortion simply won’t affect them, and they’re married so *they* needn’t worry about same-sex marriage, etc. That or they’re just fucking idiots.

  3. Posted October 30, 2004 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    I know from experience that the pressure put on women who lean towards the Democrats but marry Republican can be very intense, and it’s easier to give in than fight it.

  4. Andrea
    Posted October 30, 2004 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    I am recently married and quite baffled at this new study. My husband and I were planning on voting for Kerry, but I guess now I’ll have to vote for Bush instead since that’s what married people do. I’m also planning on quitting my job, buying a mini van, and having 2.5 kids.
    But seriously, I’m not sure why there is such a big gap. Maybe I should get a new bumper sticker “married woman for Kerry.”

  5. farmer
    Posted October 31, 2004 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Conclusion: When you live with someone who hogs the remote and watches Fox news and then rants on with the Repuglican line it affects your ability to think.

  6. Posted October 31, 2004 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    I’m wondering if part of it is that conservative women are more likely to get married, rather than that married women are more likely to be conservative. For instance, my sense is that members of conservative Christian churches tend to marry earlier than non-believers or members of more liberal faiths. And I’m pretty sure that African-American women are less likely to be married than white women. Did these surveys control for factors like race and religion which could influence both political beliefs and likelihood of being married?
    Also, are they counting as single only never-married women or divorced women, too?
    I’m also wondering what affect motherhood has. It seems to me that married mothers are celebrated and spoken to by conservatives in a way that some of them might find appealing and empowering. Single non-mothers aren’t celebrated by conservatives in the same way, and single mothers are more likely to be demonized than celebrated. And I’m wondering if married women are more likely to get involved in religious institutions after they have kids. I know that’s what happened with my mother: she had kind of drifted away from religion but returned when she had kids who required religious education. It didn’t make her more conservative, but I could see how it might have if we’d belonged to a more conservative faith.
    I’m rambling. But I feel like I’d need to see a lot more data to know how to make sense of the marriage gap.

  7. Shoe
    Posted October 31, 2004 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Just this morning I was talking to two friends of mine who are stay-at-home mothers who were once very liberal and say they became more conservative after getting married and even more so after having kids. The one who married a Democrat is still a Democrat, but less liberal, and the one who married a Republican is now a conservative Republican.
    During the conversation, my own fiance (a conservative Republican) walked up, put his arm around me, and said “So there’s still hope for her.”
    This scared the poop out of me, and sent me looking online for a circle of liberals to counter the conservative influences I’m going to be suffering, and notice if I return from the Honeymoon with a lobotomy.
    This is leading off-topic, but I’ve had a LOT of trouble finding a forum-format (as opposed to blog format) discussion board for liberals or feminists that was any good. When I google “feminist discussion board” all I find are anti-feminist sites!
    Help!

  8. Katha Pollitt
    Posted October 31, 2004 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    I think you are all right. Women who belong to conservative demographics–white, not really poor, evangelical — are more likely to get married. They are older. They have more money and more property and worry more about things like keeping their taxes down. Years of listening to conservative husbands influences them–not right away, but over time (but perhaps that’s what they wanted, and that’s why they marry conservatives?). But sometimes the husband and wife become gradually conservative together as they become more prosperous. They move to a republican suburb and their social/business world becomes a conservative world. Having children can make a (white middle-class) woman more conservative for all kinds of reasons — she gets into rightwing social networks (like the christian daycare center, or going to church for the kids sake), she experiences the joy of babies and turns against abortion (or the horror of babies and goes anti-abortion to reward herself for being so responsible). She feels she never has quite enough money and doesn’t want to give any of it to poor people, she narrows her focus to her own kids — protecting them from sleaze, improving their schooling, not everybody’s schooling. There’s a funny kind of narcissism about those “security moms” — it’s like they think osama is a burglar who is going to come to their house. They are too absorbed in fear to think about what is the best way to make america safe. so they fall back on the ultimate conservative husband/daddy — Bush. for them, perhaps, voting Dem was always a bit of a luxury, like charity, or based on some issue like abortion that no longer affects them.
    Single women need the govt safety net more. Married women have their husbands. By the time they figure out he may not be such a great safety net , or that that safety net has a hidden price tag (like staying married to him )they’ve already moved over into the republican column.

  9. lauryn
    Posted October 31, 2004 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s too easy to blame husbands. To me, part of being a feminist is giving agency to women to make and account for their own decisions.
    But I think everyone’s comments on children are totally right-on. As I’ve watched my sister become a mom to three, her involvement with the religious right has definitely grown. One thing that I’ve been struck by is what a great job churches do in terms of providing activities for kids. While it’s easy to label it brainwashing, the reality is that there aren’t many places where you can drop your kids off *for free*, that provide arts & crafts,playgrounds, etc. You mix that convenience with the fact that *a lot* of churches have been handing out the Christian Coalition’s voter guide and you have a mix for disaster. (sigh).
    I guess in the end, it isn’t really about the act of marriage at all. It’s just how being married tends to slowly inform the other aspects of your life–where you live, who you socialize with, how you spend your money, etc. With that said, I still believe with my whole heart/mind/soul that when I get married I’ll still be a radical feminist. And I hope if I have kids that I can raise them to be radical feminists too. (smile).

  10. Posted November 1, 2004 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    Lauryn, If it gives you comfort to know this, I’ve become more of a feminist since marriage & one kid. (And, actually, so has my husband.) So it’s possible.

  11. NancyP
    Posted November 1, 2004 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    American free-market religion is a huge conservative force, in that churches/pastors that preach personal sacrifice to help the poor stranger don’t grow the congregation as much as those that offer social events with those of similar economic background. I get the impression that Sunday is not only the most racially segregated day, but also the most economically and politically segregated day.

  12. Posted November 1, 2004 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    Lauryn, I hold women who marry Republicans accountable for themselves–I’m just holding them accountable for giving in so easily.

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