Why single people voted differently from married

In an earlier post, I discussed the serious problem that the GOP has with single women who voted by a whopping 67-31% for Obama. Mitt Romney’s suggestion that this was because of president Obama’s ‘gift’ of ‘free’ contraceptives was widely ridiculed but this idea that all single women care about is contraception and abortion is quite widespread.

But Melissa Dickman has looked at the exit polling data and finds that focusing on unmarried women is misleading. Irrespective of your gender, whether you are married or unmarried seemed to be an important factor in the last election.

First, unmarried voters’ personal perceptions of the candidates differed dramatically from those of married voters, in ways that clearly benefited Obama. Figure 1 shows wide gaps in the leadership qualities that married and unmarried voters ascribed to the presidential candidates. Unmarried voters were significantly more likely to believe Obama better exemplified important leadership traits than Romney. They were more likely to see Obama as “honest and trustworthy”, and as a “strong and decisive leader”, than Romney. Given that the centerpiece of Romney’s campaign revolved around his business experience and plan to grow America’s economy, especially damaging to Romney was the perception among unmarried voters that Obama was far more likely (59 to 37 percent) to have a plan to get the economy moving than Romney.

Given the steady decline in marriage and the rise in numbers of people who have never married, this is a demographic that both parties need to be concerned about.


  1. jose says

    I find this strange. Were other variables controlled? Why is marriage so important a factor?

    Could we speculate that people tend to marry once they get some economic stability so no insurance coverage for birth control is not so big a deal as it is for broke students and twenty-somethings who are drowning in debt? So that what we would actually be looking at here was an issue of money more than anything else?

  2. Mano Singham says

    This was not a controlled study but based on surveys, so there are all manner of explanations that can be adduced for the difference.

  3. thewhollynone says

    Exactly. Who knows why a single old lady like me votes against the Republicans? I guarantee you it’s not because I need free birth control although I can remember 50 years ago when that would have been a boon.

  4. says

    One of the sources referenced claims they controlled for other demographic variables.


    Marriage is a significant predictor of presidential vote choice even after income, age, race, gender, education, religiosity, region, and having minor children are statistically controlled for.

    Though, they don’t present anything that gives me a lot of confidence that this whole thing isn’t merely due to a correlation between martial status and combinations of other factors, age in particular. It seems like there would be a strong correlation between age and marital status.

    They present the data combined with religious belief and race, but totally leave age out of the question.

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