Why Democrats have a thing for single women

     A woman scans her ballot after voting at a school (Richard Drew/AP Photo)

    A woman scans her ballot after voting at a school (Richard Drew/AP Photo)

    Democrats have a thing this year for single women – all the unmarrieds, including the divorced and the widowed – because supposedly those females can be stoked to vote in November and thus save the Dems from another midterm debacle. Supposedly.

    The party’s strategists have been crunching the numbers, and they’re convinced that single women are crucial to preventing a GOP takeover of the Senate. In 2012, two-thirds of single women voted for Barack Obama and congressional Democratic candidates. And the single women electorate is so huge – 53 million, more than double the size of the burgeoning Hispanic electorate – that Democrats can’t help but dream of being rescued in 2014.

    But I doubt this dream will come true. Later on, I’ll tell you why.

    You may have noticed how assiduously the Democrats have been trying to woo single women. Like last week, when President Obama staged a grand ceremony just to sign two minor executive orders that chip away at male-female pay inequity. Like last week, when Senate Democrats tried to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act (designed to narrow the male-female pay gap), knowing all along that Senate Republicans would block it. Like every week, when Democrats have called for federal legislation mandating a higher minimum wage, knowing that Republicans will always say no.

    Sounds like a smart strategy, in theory. Pollsters say that most single women favor a higher minimum wage – according to federal labor stats, 49.6 percent of all Americans making minimum wage or less are single women, or women with AWOL spouses – and that most single women believe they make less money than men who do equivalent jobs. Plus, single women complain that their health coverage premiums have traditionally been higher than men’s premiums….which is why the Obama team has lately been touting the Obamacare ban on gender discrimination.

    The problem, however, is that the vast single female electorate doesn’t seem to be listening.

    Or, as veteran Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg diplomatically puts it, “In an off-year election, and when so many are struggling economically, unmarried women are no guarantee at the polls….They still need to see that they have a stake in this election….Democrats have some work to do.”

    In November ’12, 67 percent of unmarried women cast their ballots for Obama and Democratic congressional candidates; today, says Greenberg, only 58 percent say they’d vote Democratic. That’s assuming they’d vote at all. Greenberg says, “In our most recent national survey, just two-thirds of unmarried women who voted in 2012 said they were almost certain to vote in November.” In translation, “10.5 million unmarried women who voted in 2012 are projected to stay home in November.”

    So, for Democrats, it’s a looming double whammy: Single women voters are less supportive, less enthused – and potentially far fewer in number.

    The Democratic plan is to keep banging away at female-friendly economic themes, and to spotlight Paul Ryan’s latest House budgetary attempt to scissor holes in the federal safety net. And Obama will undoubtedly keep talking about pay inequity, and invoking Lilly Ledbetter (even though he recently got zapped by stats showing that women in his own White House make 88 cents for every dollar earned by his men). A higher minimum wage would disproportionately help single women, according to economic studies, so Democrats will keep hammering on that.

    But I question whether all this economic messaging will translate into higher turnout. Greenberg says the messaging is essential because single women are “vulnerable economically, at a time when jobs that pay enough to live in are very scarce….In focus groups, (single women) tell us that jobs don’t pay enough anymore, so they have multiple jobs to make up the difference.”

    Problem is, single women in tough economic straits are just as likely to say to themselves, “We’ve voted for Obama twice, he’s been president for more than five years, and nothing much has changed. So why should we bother again this year?” It’s beyond dispute, of course, that the obstructionist Republicans have contributed mightily to our ongoing economic woes – as did the most recent Republican president, who bequeathed an economic crash – but nobody ever said that political life was fair.

    One other thought: In 2012, the robust single-female turnout certainly didn’t stop Mitt Romney from winning Arkansas, Alaska, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia. So how can the Democrats possibly believe that single females in those red states will vote in sufficient numbers to save the party’s Senate candidates – and the Democratic chamber? I’m just sayin’.

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    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

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