National Women's Survey: Research Shows Important Differences Between Married and Unmarried Women


A national survey of adult-aged women shows some real commonalities of among women almost across the board. They are concerned about the direction of the country and committed to change. They are particularly concerned about the economy, which is the leading issue here, as among other groups. They are focused on the election, paying attention, and poised to vote in record numbers. However, the survey also highlights key political and economic differences between married and unmarried women.

Unmarried women deliver a 41-point margin to the Democrats in named trial heat and post big leads in named trial heats for both Clinton and Obama. The generic lead is smaller among married women (16 points) and married women divide evenly in named trial heats. Economically, the differences is just as profound, as unmarried women face a much more constrained and unstable situation. To cite just one example, nearly half (48 percent) of unmarried women earn less than $30,000 a year in household income; among married, this number drops to 15 percent.

These differences lead to different conclusions, not only politically, but also in terms of policy, and challenge the conventional and now-outdated notion of a “women’s vote” or even a “women’s agenda.”

Key Findings

  • Unmarried women are engaged and paying attention. Despite historically lower levels of participation, unmarried women are nearly as energized as their married sisters. Huge majorities of each cohort describe both their likelihood of voting and their interest in this election as a “10” on a ten-point scale (76 percent of married women say they are very likely to vote, compared to 68 percent among unmarried women.)
  • A significant marriage gap continues in the political preferences of married and unmarried women. Democrats do well among women in general in this survey, but to take just one example, married women prefer a generic Democratic by a 53 - 38 percent margin (15 points), compared to a 66 - 25 percent margin among unmarried women. This represents a 26-point marriage gap on this measure.
  • A significant economic marriage gap also emerges in self-reported economic circumstances. A 55 majority of unmarried women say they often do not have the money to make the ends meet compared to 42 percent of married women. Moreover, nearly half of unmarried women earn less than $30,000 a year in household income, compared to 15 percent among married women.
  • This economic marriage gap translates into significant differences in the importance married women and unmarried women place on policy options. Unmarried women are 19 points more likely to describe housing assistance as very important to their lives, 12 points more likely to describe child care assistance as very important to their lives and 10 points more likely to describe raising the minimum wage as very important.
  • There is a communications gap between what the candidates are saying and what both unmarried and married women want to hear. Women say that they have heard a lot from the candidates on big issues like Iraq, health care, the economy and immigration. They have not, however, heard much from the candidates on their most important issues like equal pay, child care, education, or the cost of living, issues that also play a big role in their agenda, particularly women in more circumscribed economic circumstances.

Methodology

These findings are is based on a survey of 1007 adult women. The survey was sampled using the Random Digit Dial (RDD) methodology and stratified regionally and demographically. This survey included 512 married women and 484 unmarried women. This survey was conducted from March 18-26, 2008 and carries a margin of error of ±4.36.

Downloads

Report: Women's National Survey (PDF - 9 K)

Graphs: Women's National Survey (PDF - 17 K)