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The marriage gap is bigger than the gender gap

The gender gap is famous and familiar. In general, and again in this year’s presidential race, women favor Democrats by a wide margin and men favor Republicans.

Less famous, but also present in all recent elections, is a huge gap between the preferences of married versus unmarried Americans.  Gallup has a fresh analysis out, showing that among registered voters, it breaks down thus.

  • Among married registered voters: Romney-54; Obama-39
  • Among single registered voters: Obama-56; Romney-35.

Gallup tracks the recent history of the marriage gap and shows that it has been significant, along the same partisan lines, in the previous four presidential elections as well (and very likely before that).

Is there something about being single that makes you like Democrats and something about getting married that turns you Republican? I don’t think there’s much evidence of that. Single voters are more likely to be young, poor, of color , gay or lesbian — all groups that favor Democrats generally and Obama in particular.

Gallup breaks the unmarrieds into categories and finds significant differences, thus:

Category of singleness/ percentage supporting Obama:

  • Domestic partners: 62%
  • Never married: 61%
  • Separated: 58%
  • Divorced: 51%
  • Widow-widower: 45.

Just for comparison purposes, a recent measure of the gender gap, this one in a New York Times/CBS poll, has it this way:

  • Among women: Obama, 53; Romney 41.
  • Among Men: Romney, 48; Obama, 42.

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/16/2012 - 01:13 pm.

    We have a man problem in this country.

    For some reason men in this country have really difficult time thinking critically. Is it genetic or what?

  2. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 09/16/2012 - 01:53 pm.


    I’m sure that married and unmarried Americans differ along many dimensions.
    An obvious one is age.
    If married Americans are on the average older than unmarried ones, this would account for at least part of the effect.

  3. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/17/2012 - 09:06 am.

    On the hand..

    It’s reasonable to assume that a majority (perhaps small, but large enough) of couples who get married are slightly more conservative than those who don’t. I think if you dig into those married couples that’s what you’d find. A slight minority like my wife and I will give you some explanation other than “tradition” or religion for getting married. If I’m not mistaken marriage itself is currently on the decline in the US, and has been in Europe for years.

  4. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 09/17/2012 - 09:36 am.


    @Paul U
    You are correct about the marriage decline, and it is age related, which is why it’s likely to be a continuing trend.

  5. Submitted by Diane Nelson on 09/17/2012 - 01:20 pm.

    It would be interesting

    to further slice the marrieds, by men and women. Then pose the question, why are married women more Republican than their unmarried counterparts?

    I suspect there’s a chance that at least partly responsible is the fact that once women are no longer single-incomed (and relying on Democratic support to get women’s pay more equitable to men’s pay as just one of many women’s issues) when they become married suddenly their husband’s salary (which is higher in part thanks to Republican support to keep it that way) is added to and part of their household income, and therefore Republican efforts take on a new meaning for them. They are now benefitting from, or at least their pay differential losses are mitigated by, the addition of a man’s higher pay to their household income.

    Just a thought…..

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