Democrats will struggle to reclaim the country without reclaiming a core and growing constituency - unmarried women. Last night, President Obama took a major step toward recapturing these voters. He owes this success largely to the major theme of the speech, the economy.

In 2006 and 2008 it was unmarried women who led a broad coalition of change voters who drove progressive victories. Other members of this coalition include people of color and younger voters, voters we call the Rising American Electorate (RAE), who collectively comprise a growing majority - 53 percent - of the voting eligible population. Their numbers are increasing dramatically and account for 81 percent of the growth in the voting eligible population over the last decade, 95 percent since 2008. The 2010 election represented a significant pull back by some elements in the RAE. A 70 percent majority of unmarried women supported President Obama in 2008; in 2010, the Democratic percentage fell to 57 percent.

In partnership with Democracy CorpsWomen’s Voices, Women Vote Action Fund conducted dial testing of the speech with 30 unmarried women in Denver; half of these women were independent and weak partisan voters, half were voters with more progressive values, but who are disengaged from politics generally. In addition to dials, which tracked positive and negative reactions to the speech, all participants took pre- and post-speech surveys. Be advised that this is qualitative research and the results are not statistically significant, however, they are potentially indicative of larger trends. The participants also took part in post-speech interviews that allowed us to zero in on themes of the speech that worked well and worked not-so-well.

Key Findings

Overall, unmarried women reacted strongly to the speech, lifting the number of unmarried women who strongly approve of President Obama’s work by 13 points. But it is on core economic measures where the President most impressed the participants of this group. The President saw a 30 point jump on “has good plans for the economy,” the second strongest improvement recorded that night. This speech registered some of the highest approval on the dials when President Obama took the time to relate macro-economic themes to the individual lives of voters.

The entire memo is available here.


Unmarried women’s reactions to the speech were measured by Perception Analyzer technology provided by Dialsmith.

Sources: Stan Greenberg, Anna Greenberg, David Walker

Client: Women's Voices. Women Vote Action Fund and Democracy Corps