Could Marriage Gap Sway Midterms? genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation & Uncivil Unions

Marriage gap

During each election cycle, pollsters and analysts look for more and more data to assist in projecting or predicting which candidate or which Party is likely to win. In an article in USA TODAY, the latest statistic garnering attention is the percentage of married people living within the contested Congressional districts. If the data is accurate, the indications would suggest that Democrats might well be successful in assuming control of the House come November.

House districts held by Republicans are full of married people. Democratic districts are stacked with people who have never married. This “marriage gap" could play a role in the Nov. 7 congressional elections. Democrats need a net gain of 15 seats to take control of the House of Representatives.

Twenty-seven of the 38 Republican-held districts with seats considered vulnerable by independent political analysts have fewer married people than found in the average GOP district. The USA TODAY analysis also shows that:

•Republicans control 49 of the 50 districts with the highest rates of married people.

•Democrats represent all 50 districts that have the highest rates of adults who have never married.

The “never married" group covers a variety of groups who form the Democratic base: young people, those who marry late in life, single parents, gays, and heterosexuals who live together.

The findings seem to offer further support for the urban/rural divide as well as for the red state/blue state construct. I'm not sure how to attribute the findings from a psychological perspective although my first instinct is to assume that those who marry are more apt to have conservative leanings and therefore follow a more conventional life that could be viewed as more in line with what we frequently hear are established values and mores. I would therefore these married voters to be more apt to support Republican candidates. Clearly, my observations are generalizations and it would require further research to make any definitive conclusions. Nonetheless, the USA TODAY data seems to support some of my assumptions.

Most serious Democratic challenges this fall are in Republican-controlled House districts that have lower marriage rates.

For example, the two seats most likely to switch from Republican to Democratic are Arizona's 8th District and Colorado's 7th District, according to the non-partisan National Journal. The districts — in which Republican incumbents are not seeking re-election — rank 251st and 307th respectively in marriage rates among the 435 districts.

Of the five Republicans who have the lowest rates of married people in their districts, four are in tough battles with Democrats. On the other side, Rep. Melissa Bean, D-Ill., whose district has a high marriage rate, faces a strong GOP challenge.

Rep. John Linder, R-Ga., whose district has the highest marriage rate (66.1%), says the gap exists because “people get more conservative when they settle down." Democratic pollster Mark Mellman says the gap is magnified because a greater percentage of married people vote than unmarried people.

It will be interesting to see how these races unfold and whether the results comport with the statistical data once the votes are counted. Regardless, it seems to point to one additional factor in the polarization that seems to be growing within the United States. It also provides a group of voters that both Parties need to better address in their campaign strategies given the evidence that we have a very closely divided electorate.

Daniel DiRito | September 27, 2006 | 9:31 AM
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1 On September 29, 2006 at 11:20 AM, wj wrote —

So this would seem to suggest that the Republicans would benefit by increasing the number of married couples. Such as by allowing gay couples to marry. Oh, the irony!

Thought Theater at Blogged

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