In the past several years, the number of unmarried women has increased dramatically in the United States. Due in a large part to better accessibility to higher education and increased job opportunities, more women choose to marry later in life or not at all. In fact, according to the New York Times, the number of single women has increased by 11 million in the past 14 years. There are now 56 million unmarried women in the United States — that’s half of all women in the country and 25 percent of eligible voters.
The rapid increase in the number of unmarried women means there’s now a new voting demographic. Many politicians have taken note of the rise in single women and are doing their best to appeal to them during elections. In upcoming elections, getting women to come out and vote could clinch a candidate’s victory. Here are a few details about single women’s voting habits and how they may turn the tide in future races.
The recent Supreme Court ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby brought up one very important issue for unmarried women — access to birth control. The Court’s decision, which limited the number of affordable birth control options, made many single women furious. They expressed their frustration through whatever outlet available, whether it be scathing online articles, social media or staged protests. Single women’s vehement opposition to any limits on birth control shouldn’t come as a surprise. Access to birth control is a big part of the women’s rights movement, which partially accounts for the rise in the single women demographic.
Contraception and reproductive health are not the only key issues for single women. Unmarried women also typically support education spending, college affordability programs, wage increases and equal pay. You’re right if you think these issues closely align with Democratic ideology. Besides African-Americans, single women are the Democratic Party’s strongest supporters. This probably isn’t a shock — why would working women want vote for Republicans, who consistently voted against measures like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act?
Both Republicans and Democrats face challenges when it comes to single women. While Republicans have difficulty appealing to the demographic at all, Democrats have trouble getting single women to vote. Voter turnout is better across the board during presidential election years. However, the unmarried women demographic has an especially high decline in voter turnout between presidential and midterm election years.
If Democrats can motivate single women to vote, they could clinch a lot of major victories in the near future. According to the New York Times, Democrat leaders think unmarried women could help them secure Senate seats in at least 6 states and governorships in several more. Single women can be difficult to target, as they’re spread throughout every region of the country and tend to live very busy lives. However, Democrats are doing everything they can to get the word out about elections and help register women to vote. They’re even investing in bus tours and partnering with groups like Women’s Voices, Women Vote and Planned Parenthood.
Besides engaging in voter outreach, one of the tactics Democrats use to appeal to women is pointing out their opponent’s poor track record with women. In 2013, Terry McAuliffe won the Virginia governor race in part by illustrating how the Republican incumbent voted to limit birth control. Democrats hope to use McAuliffe’s victory as a model for upcoming elections. The tactic could be especially effective in North Carolina’s Senate race. This race will pit Democrat Kay Hagan against Republican Thom Tillis, a man who has consistently voted against women’s reproductive rights.
How do you think single women will affect the turnout of this year’s elections? Will they stay home like they’ve done in the past, or get out the polls and support the Democratic candidates?