|My November 2012 graph showing the GOP's |
singles problem isn't just with unmarried women:
it's 77% as bad with unmarried men.
Republicans should worry that unmarried women shun them
Dec 14th 2013 | From the print edition
THE slow decline of marriage is upending American politics. In the 2012 presidential election, unmarried women accounted for nearly a quarter of all votes cast. Their votes went decisively to Barack Obama, by 36 percentage points.
You might not think that a group that runs from not-yet-married college students to inner-city single mothers and divorced professionals had much in common. Yet unmarried women are spectacularly loyal to the Democrats—if they vote, which many do not. (Widows are outliers, voting more like married women.)
My graphs group widows/widowers with the married under the logic that widowhood is an inevitable byproduct of marriage.
The “marriage gap” dwarfs the sex gap, by which women as a whole have long favoured Democrats: Mr Obama beat Mitt Romney by a less dramatic 11 points among female voters.
There are minor differences between my graphs and the numbers The Economist reports because my graphs use the larger Reuters-Ipsos American Mosaic national online panel of 40,000 voters compared to The Economist's use of the exit poll of 25,000, which didn't invest in having adequate coverage in 20 states it considered uninteresting, such as giant Texas. But, the two big polls were in general agreement.
Like boffins squabbling about quantum physics, some political types wonder whether “unmarried women” amount to a discrete voter block at all, or whether the label merely sweeps up various left-leaning slices of the electorate: ie, younger voters, poorer ones, more secular Americans and non-whites. That would be no more than an interesting metaphysical question, but for three big and inter-related developments.
First, unmarried women are one of America’s fastest-growing groups, leaping from 45m in 2000 to around 53m today—making them, in theory, a larger block of eligible voters than blacks and Hispanics put together (though in reality the groups overlap).
Second, Democrats—notably the Obama crowd—have found ways to map the electorate with unprecedented precision, using everything from polls and doorstep canvassing to commercial consumer databases. In the Dark Ages (ie, before 2008), campaigns might have blanketed majority-black city blocks or mostly-Democratic neighbourhoods with appeals to register and vote, while saturating the airwaves with paid advertising. That wasted time and money on those who always vote anyway, those who never vote, and those who (gasp) might vote Republican. Now the talk is of target “universes”: focusing resources on those who need just a nudge to come out and vote the right way.
It turns out that two principal campaign tasks—persuading swing voters, and turning out loyal but sporadic supporters—are made far more efficient if marital status is added to the mix, alongside such markers as sex, race, income and geography. That holds equally true when buying advertising alongside the right TV shows, and when leafleting selected homes in specific streets. Nationally, Page Gardner, a voter-registration expert, has crafted models that allow unmarried women to be found with great accuracy. Conservatives are still playing catch-up.
In November’s election for governor of Virginia—a race won narrowly by Terry McAuliffe, a Democratic fundraiser and member of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s inner circle—fully two-thirds of voters chosen for special attention by Democratic get-out-the-vote teams were unmarried women, says Michael Halle, a McAuliffe campaign guru. Unmarried women voted for Mr McAuliffe by a thumping 42 percentage-point margin over his Republican rival, Ken Cuccinelli, arguably handing him victory. (Married women backed Mr Cuccinelli by nine points.)
For an explanation, consider a third big development: the Republicans’ embrace of policies and slogans that might have been laboratory-crafted to upset and unite different types of unmarried women. ...
A more accurate way of thinking about this is that the Democrats know that they can trawl online through the public utterances of hundreds of miscellaneous Republican candidates nationwide, then sic their pet national news media outlets to carpet bombing the public with an orchestrated campaign of umbrage over what some Republican somewhere said.
Pragmatic Republicans know the party needs to tone down its social conservatism. But even so, it may struggle with singletons. Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster, says single women of differing races, ages, classes and religiosity are united by a sense of fending for themselves. That makes them more likely to favour a strong role for government as a safety net.
"Fending for themselves" < > "strong role for government as a safety net," but never mind logic.
I bring up this article to show how hard it is for anybody to step outside the dominant Who? Whom? Narrative of our times in which vast exercises in power are used to redefine their beneficiaries as the sainted Powerless.
The GOP's marriage gap is 77% as large among men as among women, which suggests the GOP's problem is less women than singleness. But, practically nobody notices that because everybody is so inculcated in thinking in terms of Good Guys and Bad Guys.
Single women are, by Narrative definition, Good Guys.
Single men are ... well, ambiguous at best. They are men, so they are by that definition by Bad Guys. Their singleness could be spun either way, but mostly there are a lot of single ladies out there who want single men to put a ring on it. On the other hand, single men do vote strongly for Obama. It's a puzzlement, so it's best just to completely ignore single men because they don't fit conveniently into Narrative categories of Good v. Bad.
Moreover, the policy recommendations that flow from these perspectives (the GOP's problem is single women versus the GOP's problem is single people) are opposite. The Economist, representing the dominant mindset, thinks the GOP should strive harder to make single motherhood even more socially acceptable than it is now, which, presumably, would lead to even more single women. But they are natural Republicans. Oh, except they are not.
My suggestion, in contrast, is that the GOP should finally notice that it's time to try policies for making marriage more affordable.