Rise of the Single-Woman Vote

March 14th, 2012

The fight to win over the nation’s fastest-growing voting group—and the most misunderstood.

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Updated Tuesday, March 13, 2012, at 1:51 PM ET

When headlines announced last weekend that the “Obama Campaign Plans Big Effort to Court Women,” they generally called a couple of particular types of women to mind. Despite the dating metaphors (woo, court, win over) she is not generally available for romance. One type, familiar from past elections, is a variation on Louise from the old Harry and Louise health care ads, a middle-aged woman sitting at her round oak kitchen table amid a pile of bills and a cookie jar. Another incarnation is the 1996 soccer mom in a minivan, president of her suburban PTA. The people who decide elections, wrote Republican consultant John Feehery recently, are the “white married women.” To his party members he advised: “listen to your wife.”

Actually, Feehery’s folksy advice is outdated. These days your daughter, or even your mistress, is the better campaign target. As married women split their votes about equally between Democrats and Republicans, they are fading into the electoral woodwork, while single women are doing what only single women can do: switch alliances, hold out for the best deal, express their outrage by suddenly going cold on a candidate who has irritated them and then warm up quickly to a new one who makes a better offer.

The single woman, or “swingle,” as pollsters are now calling her, is already one of the largest voting blocs at 55 million, and that number is growing by almost 1 million voters a year—faster than any other group of voters broken out in the polls. Last year, single women made up one-quarter of voters overall—about the same number as self-identified white evangelical Christians. And if Obama’s strategy for courting these women works long term, pollsters say, single women might actually become the Democrats’ equivalent of the evangelicals—a reliable base for future elections.

 

To read the full article on Slate’s website, click here.