A project of

A Roadmap for Reaching Unmarried Women

Unmarried women represent one of the largest untapped pools of potential voters and they have the potential to have an enormous influence on American politics and policies.  That’s if they register and turnout. Identifying and using trusted communications channels are keys to increasing the participation and amplifying the voice of unmarried women in our democracy. To that end, The Voter Participation Center and Lake Research Partners have prepared a road map for reaching unmarried women.

Unmarried women — divorced, separated, widowed or never been married –are a large, politically powerful and rapidly growing part of the electorate:

  • Unmarried women make up more than 25 percent of the U.S. population.
  • They grew faster in sheer numbers than any other demographic group between 2000 and 2010 and saw a huge increase – 20% – compared to a 7 percent increase for married women — in the number of eligible voters since 2000.
  • Marital status is a key determinate of electoral participation.  Unmarried women are considerably less likely to register or vote than their married counterparts and their level of political involvement falls short of their potential.
  • In addition to their sheer size and growth rates, they are also the key to reaching other politically under-participating, under-represented groups.  They are the largest segment and the primary driver of the Rising American Electorate (RAE.)  Together, unmarried women, people of color and young people make up the majority (53 percent) of the eligible U.S. voters.  And unmarried women make up a large percentage of the Latino and African-American populations and of young people under 30.
  • Their participation in 2008 made a major difference as it could in November 2012, when 55 million unmarried women will be eligible to vote.

The 2008 Presidential election was a strong demonstration of the power and potential of this vote.  That year, President Obama carried unmarried women 70 -29 percent over John McCain. And this year, according to the Quinnipiac University national poll released on July 11, President Obama’s 46 to 43 percent lead over Governor Romney is being “driven by a yawning marriage gap, and a 2-1 lead among single women.” According to the poll, Romney leads 49 – 42 percent among married women; Obama leads 60 – 31 percent among unmarried women. “Although much has been made about the gender gap and how President Barack Obama’s lead among women fuels his campaign, the marriage gap is actually larger and more telling,” according to Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

But 39 percent of eligible unmarried women are unregistered, compared to 28 percent of married women. And even though unmarried women will be deeply and directly affected by the outcome of the 2012 elections and the economic, health care and education policies that will be pursued after the election, they are not active seekers of political news or election coverage. The 2008 “surge” vote will not reappear in 2012 unless outreach and communications designed to give them a stake in the outcome of the election starts now.  That’s why we are making the report, Unmarried Women: How They Get News and Information, available to ensure that these women are actively engaged by as many different groups and organizations as possible. The goal is improve the accuracy of their targeted communications, to ensure they are reaching – and being heard by– single women.

Highlights from “Unmarried Women: How They Get News and Information:

  • These women are busy, move much more than other voters, feel disconnected from politics, and are often put off by “political information.” Unmarried women are highly skeptical and less likely to trust news sources than adults overall.
  • They are not watching political television channels, listening to political talk radio or reading political blogs. More than seven in ten (72 percent) express moderate to no interest in politics – significantly higher than adults overall (61 percent)
  • The key to reaching unmarried women is reaching out to them through non-political channels and where they live and interact. The information has to reach them where they are, be local, and directly apply to their daily lives even more so than for other groups of voters.
  • Unmarried women get news and information from local TV news, online weather, health and entertainment sites and from talking with others. Eight in ten unmarried women have gotten news in the last month from talking with others.
  • Television, especially local television, remains a dominant source of news for these unmarried women.
  • Cable television is also an effective way to reach these women. Some of their favorite shows air on Lifetime, TLC, TBS, TNT, A&E, and the Food Network.  MTV is important for the never married women.
  • There is a strong age difference in news gathering: younger unmarried women under 50 are much more likely to use the Internet to get news about the election than older women (34% to 9%); older unmarried women still tend to have regular news viewing habits, tuning in for regularly scheduled newscasts; younger unmarried women check in on the news on an irregular basis and are less likely to wait for the “News at 11.”
  • Unmarried women tend to see the news on their customized home pages on the web.
  • These women gravitate toward sites supplying weather, directions, and health information. They look for news they can use – including money saving tips and restaurant reviews. Unmarried women also like entertainment news and websites.
  • All unmarried women rely on information received by word of mouth. Social media is a powerful way to trigger these in-person conversations for younger women; for older women, younger friends and family can spark this conversation.
  • Two-thirds of unmarried women – like adults overall – use their cell phones for more than calls.  But younger single women (under 50) are much more likely (81 percent) than older women (44%) to use their phones for other things than calls.  Texting is a powerful and effective tool for communicating with younger unmarried women.