Why are married people more likely to vote Republican?
by RFK Action Front, Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 02:24:38 PM EDT
This week I stumbled upon a study by the Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research that looked at the marriage gap in American politics. Their findings are stunning:
2006 saw a 9 point gender gap with Democratic congressional candidates winning among both men and women; it also saw a 32 point marriage gap overall and a 35 point marriage gap among women.
Looking at the national exit poll in the 2006 congressional elections (Edison/Mitolsky/CNN Network exit poll) shows that married people tended to vote Republican and unmarried people overwhelmingly voted Democratic:
Married Men voted Democratic 47%; Republican 51%
Married Women voted Democratic 48%; Republican 50%
Unmarried Men voted Democratic 62%; Republican 36%
Unmarried Women voted Democratic 66%; Republican 32%
Right now marital status trumps gender, age, education, and income in explaining how someone is likely to vote.
Greenberg Quinlan Rosner conclude by saying:
"If unmarried women participated in elections in greater numbers, they would change the course of our country's politics.
True! But that seems like only part of the issue! We also need to get more single men to vote and we need to erode the enormous marriage gap in the first place.
But before we can do that someone needs to answer the question: Why are married people so much more likely to vote Republican than unmarried people? Furthermore, why is the marriage gap even larger among women than it is among men?
Now maybe this is largely the result of self-selection. Namely, people who want to be married tend to be more conservative (and vice versa) so it's natural that they find each other, get hitched, and vote accordingly. It's like Republican voters and pickup trucks--Republicans are more likely to want to drive a pickup truck so naturally pickup truck owners tend to vote Republican. As far as I know there is nothing about the process of buying a pickup truck or driving a pickup truck that turns one into a Republican. But how much of the difference in voting patterns between married and unmarried people is the result of self selection?
What about having children? Are parents more likely to vote Republican? Perhaps. People married with children voted Republican 51%, Democratic 48% in 2006. People without children voted 56% Democratic, 42% Republican. That's a 17 point gap--so perhaps it explains half of the marriage gap.
But on a practical level having children should make parents less likely to vote Republican. Republican control of Congress is more likely to result in an increase in air pollution, an increase in toxic contaminants in drinking water, a decrease in food safety and hence more e-coli in the hamburgers children eat, and the death of cute furry creatures like polar bears that children like to read about and watch on National Geographic channel. So unless married people with children just plain don't like their children and vote Republican as a result, logically speaking, parenthood shouldn't cause people to vote Republican.
What about mortgages? Are married people more likely to own a home and thus more likely to vote Republican to protect their investment? Again, that doesn't make sense. The 8 years of the Clinton presidency saw record low interest rates and record high home ownership rates. Furthermore, research shows that over time, the economy does better under a Democratic administration than a Republican one.
I think it's taxes or rather tax breaks. Being married and raising a family is expensive. Married people are looking for any break they can get and they know that so-called "family values" Republicans are more likely to throw them a tax break than Democrats. But it seems to me like a Faustian bargain--by electing Republicans, married people may get a small tax break and in return our air and water are more polluted and their children get sent off to fight a war in the Middle East. (Thankfully only slightly more than half of all married people make this deal with the devil. Nonetheless, right now it's single people who deserve our gratitude for tipping the balance of power in the last election.)
Or maybe it's a combination of self-selection and taxes.
What do you think?