“Man and Wife. Say Man and Wife.”

Marriage.  Marriage is what brings us together today.  Most of the analyses looking at politics today focus on either the gender gap, or the generation gap, or the huge differences between base partisans.  However, one of the more enduring and important gaps is the marriage/single gap.

The 2008 exit polls showed the gap.  The 66{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of the electorate who is married voted for McCain by five points, while non-married voters opted for Obama by a staggering 65{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}-32{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} margin.  There has been a decent amount of attention paid to that gap. 

But, as the recent NPR survey shows, there is a huge difference not just between married and single/divorced voters, there is also a huge difference by gender within marital status.  The survey was done by POS and GQR, although this analysis does not necessarily reflect that of NPR or GQR.

Married men and married women have much more similar attitudes on core political questions than married men have with unmarried men, and married women have with unmarried women. 

For example, both married men and married women are far more pessimistic about the direction of the country than unmarried men/women.  Among married men, the mood is 31{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} right direction/59{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} wrong track.  Married women say a similar 32{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} RD/61{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} WT.  However, unmarried men aren’t as negative (42{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} RD/50{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} WT), while unmarried women are optimistic (53{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} RD/38{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} WT).  (Apologies to Hollywood — I know movies about optimistic unmarried women don’t exactly make for great romantic comedy scripts, so just stick with formula you’ve been using for years.)


The same gap exists on Obama’s job rating.  Married men (45{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} approve/49{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}disapprove) and married women (47{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} approve/48{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} disapprove) are similar.  Unmarried men are still supportive (56{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} approve/40{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} disapprove), while unmarried women are wildly supportive (68{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} approve/24{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} disapprove).


Finally, it provides a significant clue for a key target group for GOP congressional candidates.  On the tied generic ballot, married men (53{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} GOP/31{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Dem) and married women (50{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} GOP/37{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Dem) both vote Republican by double digits.  However, unmarried men (33{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} GOP/46{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Dem) and unmarried women (28{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} GOP/61{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Dem) are double digits the other way.


Some — but not all — is driven by ethnicity.  In the sample, 85{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of married women are white (a group more supportive of the GOP), and 79{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of married men are white.  Those figures drop to 68{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} among unmarried women and 71{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} among unmarried men. 

The need for the GOP to improve with minorities is the subject of other blog posts.  However, it is clear that Republican candidates need not be intimidated by polls showing GOP weakness with women.  Instead, married women are clearly a key target for Republican campaigns.  As the Princess Bride proved, it’s important to say “I do” for the marriage to count.  It’s also important to target those who do say “I do.”

Public Opinion Strategies