So many political issues, from debates over abortion and school curriculum materials to budget cuts, are framed as attacks on “women” as a group, and polls and statistics showing that women’s votes lean left are usually cited as evidence on behalf of the idea that the Republican Party is anti-woman. But these gender gap statistics are misleading — an attempt to pit the sexes against each other in a contest of identity politics that doesn’t reflect the interdependent reality of millions of women (and men).

While men’s votes skewing Republican and women’s skewing Democratic may seem like an obvious and immovable feature of the political landscape today, the so-called “gender gap” in voting preferences is a relatively modern phenomenon.

Until the 1980s, to the extent that a gap in the female and male vote existed, it went the other way, with Republican candidates like Dwight D. Eisenhower and the unsuccessful Thomas Dewey finding disproportionate popularity among women. A clear Democratic preference for America’s women emerged in the 1980s and hardened into the 11-point gap we’ve seen in the last several elections.

But the larger gap in voting patterns between men and women since the 1980s may reflect less about women as an undifferentiated mass than something else: Women with few or no ties to the opposite sex in the form of marriage and family are diverging sharply not only from the views of men but from those of their married sisters. Married men, unmarried men and married women are registering primarily the same political preferences, with only small gaps in voting patterns between them, while single women are running fast in the opposite direction from the rest.

For example, a poll in the last round of midterms found married people of both sexes and single men all going for Republicans by majority margins within a handful of points of each other (52% to 59%). Single women, on the other hand, went strongly Democratic by a landslide of 68% to 31%.

What has been labeled a gender gap by talking heads is, in reality, a marriage gap coupled with a sharp political divergence among singles, with single men trending increasingly to the right and single women strongly trending the opposite.

The left has a condescending narrative to explain this pattern, even when its spokespeople aren’t lumping all women under the political banner of the most aggrieved singles. Hillary Clinton gave voice to it in 2016, with Michelle Obama making similar remarks several years later. Married women’s political preferences are characterized as little more than a reflection of the decisions of the men in their lives, an “ongoing pressure to vote the way your husband, your boss, your son, whoever, believes you should.”

Although insulting to millions of married women, this political gambit may well pay off in time. According to the Census Bureau, 52% of women over 18 are unmarried or separated. Among the millennial generation now looking over the horizon at 40, the largest proportion ever recorded will enter the second half of their lives unmarried and childless.

Single women are a powerful force in society and politics today, sometimes channeling instincts that would have otherwise been directed toward a loving family into political causes and careers.

A First Things essay described this impulse jump from the personal into the political as “social norms centering feminine needs and feminine methods for controlling, directing and modeling behavior,” driven by the women’s domination of professional-managerial roles and human resource departments.

Manhattan Institute scholar Heather MacDonald has described the cultural transformation female majorities have driven in the university context, tying it to a “rhetoric of unsafety and victimhood.” Increasingly richer, more powerful and with fewer moderations in the form of family ties, single women are a political force to be reckoned with, not dismissed. But still, this subgroup does not speak “for women,” although they are often given that billing on news chyrons.

The sex wars may be a political reality, but, especially for women with close ties to husbands, sons, brothers and fathers, they’re an illusion. The place where sexual politics runs hot and destructive is precisely among those with the fewest ties and reasons to love the opposite sex — a type of loneliness expressed as identity politics.

There has never been a unified female perspective, even under the banner of “women’s rights,” as Phyllis Schlafly’s housewife army that arrested the advancement of the Equal Rights Amendment reminded America in the 1970s. Issues like the admittance of men to women’s locker rooms and sports teams and questionable material in school libraries have once again drawn out those women whose voices largely get ignored by media obsessed with identifying a particular agenda on behalf of the entire sex.

Men may be from Mars and women from Venus, but when they live together, raise families together, and conduct their lives together, their politics are hardly alien from each other. Women, as an identity class, aren’t driving polarization and division in politics, though our media is desperate to frame our national debates that way. Our gender gap “crisis” may, instead, reflect the more profound crisis of marriage decline, loneliness and atomization.