November 9 2012

Voting While Single

Charlotte Hays

Maybe the key to understanding one aspect of what happened on Tuesday can be found in the pages of Charles Murray’s Coming Apart and Kay Hymowitz’s Marriage and Caste in America. Both books deal with the decline of the institution of marriage in the United States.  Karlyn Bowman’s breakdown of the electorate highlights marital status and voting patterns: 

The voting gap between married and unmarried voters is much larger than the gender gap. In all recent elections, married voters have favored the Republican candidate and unmarried voters the Democrat. This year, 56% of married voters favored Romney and 42% favored Obama.

Unmarried voters can be never married, widowed, or divorced. Many in this category are single and young. In 2008, 65% of them voted for Obama; in 2012 62% did. Non-married women supported Obama more strongly (67%) than did non-married men (56%). The not-married portion of the population is growing. 

The marriage gap in this election was 41 points. The gender gap was 18.

Many of these single voters are women with children. David French has a startling insight into why single women (along with Latinos and African Americans) are a hard sell for the GOP:

 To tens of millions of American voters, a conservative message of self-reliance and individual economic freedom is, quite frankly, terrifying.

The Obama campaign knew what it was doing when it created the much-mocked “Julia”—the fictional woman in the “Life of Julia” infomercial who leads a life of cradle to grave dependency on government. Tellingly, there seem to be no men in Julia's life. The government functions as her spouse. The Obama campaign promoted this as normal.

I noticed that during the campaign whenever Mitt Romney talked about mothers, he made sure to include single mothers. Compassion is a good thing, but we also need to have the courage to promote the idea that the best framework for raising children is a household that includes two married parents.

There is a lot of talk about how the GOP must change to be able to win elections in the future. But I am proposing instead that our only hope is changing the electorate: one place to start is by emphasizing the importance of marriage. We might even consider bringing back a stigma for illegitimacy. Indeed, Charles Murray argues that it it essential to be more judgmental about those who opt to have children outside marriage.

I write this as a single woman who is a conservative. But perhaps I, too, am motivated by fear: I am frightened by the prospect of societal collapse brought on because government has run out of the means to function as, in effect, the husband and father for single women. Failure and chaos in Greece--which has exhausted its resources through programs for the dependent--are tragic; collapse in the larger, more significant United States would be of fall of Rome proportions.

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