Monday, October 13, 2008

Will this election be decided by unmarried women? By Kelly Fero

Pundits have taken great delight during recent election cycles in declaring it the year of the soccer mom or the Nascar dad or some other moniker picked up by the media in a kind of national political shorthand. This year, the chattering classes are focused on the youth vote because so much interest has been generated that new and younger voters are registering in record numbers. And that’s great.

But the fact is, this could be the year of the unmarried woman.

This group of solid middle-class women who earn about $35,000 a year as teachers or nurses or other hardworking folks make up about one-quarter of the voting age population but have traditionally underperformed at the ballot box. Some are divorced mothers struggling to raise their children on their own. Others are coming up against glass ceilings in the workplace. All of them are anxious about the direction of the country in general and the current financial crisis in particular.

During this spring’s primary, for example, unmarried women comprised as much as one-third of the Democratic turnout in Texas (where women overall made up 58 percent of the total turnout). If unmarried women return to the polls next month, they will be a powerful voting block that could put Sen. Barack Obama in the White House and Democratic candidates in offices from Congress to state representative to county sheriff.

According to one recent poll in national battleground states, there is a 30-point “marriage gap” among women, with older married women leaning toward Sen. John McCain while unmarried women strongly support Sen. Obama, providing the Democrat with the edge among women overall.

If unmarried women match their turnout in the 2006 Congressional elections — 34 percent, a full 10 points higher than their percentage of the voting age population — they will elect the next President and reshape the political landscape for years to come.

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