Women’s Voices. Women Vote.
Women’s Voices. Women Vote (WVWV) is a project of the Voter Participation Center (VPC) focused uniquely on tracking and encouraging the participation of unmarried women in the American electorate.
WVWV was the first major organization to identify unmarried women as a crucial, yet unrecognized constituency, to single-out marital status as a major determinant of political participation and to popularize a fundamental dynamic in the American electorate: the “marriage gap” – the fact that married women were much more likely than unmarried women to register and vote and unmarried women were remarkably different in their preference for candidates. .
Unmarried women — single, separated, divorced, or widowed women — are one of the fasted demographic groups in the United States:
- There are 53 million unmarried women in the U.S.
- One out of every two women in America is unmarried.
But their electoral and policy involvement has not kept pace.
- Unmarried women made up 25.2 % of the voting-eligible population but only 23.6% percent of the electorate in 2010.
- 39% of unmarried women were not registered to vote in 2010.
WVWV is committed to registering and mobilizing these voters during elections and public policy debates at levels that reflect their growing demographic strength and importance. To that end, WVWV conducts groundbreaking demographic research on unmarried women, charts the consequences of the economic downturn on their lives, tracks their attitudes on public policy issues, and develops and implements effective registration and mobilization programs and innovative approaches to help millions more unmarried women and other underrepresented groups — people of color and young people — become active participants in our democracy.
WVWV was started as a project of the Tides Center in 2003. In its first year of operation, WVWV met the challenge of identifying and contacting unmarried women – a hard to find, highly mobile group, by using a list-based approach to encourage them to register and to vote. WVWV pioneered the use of lists to register and turnout voters based on their demographic characteristics, not based on their geographical location – a much more effective, efficient and impactful way to reach the greatest number of voters and nonvoters.
Incorporated as a stand-alone 501(c)(3) in 2005, WVWV continued to run programs designed to close the participation gap between married and unmarried women in the electorate. But WVWV discovered that the same methods and methodologies used to bring unmarried women into the electorate also worked well with the other key under-represented demographics –people of color and people under 30 years of age –the three demographic groups who comprise the Rising American Electorate (RAE) and the majority, 53%, of the voting eligible population. Unmarried women form the largest cohort within the RAE:
By 2008, WVWV’s models, list enhancements, research-driven messaging and materials, and cost-effective, complementary collaborations with other organizations provided the organization with unprecedented and unique reach and singular ability to motivate and mobilize the RAE.
Since its inception, WVWV has been unique among civic engagement groups because of its reliance on Research & Development (R&D). From controlled experiments to measure and improve programmatic effectiveness and cost-efficiency to demographic and public opinion surveys, WVWV uses a broad array of research instruments to develop and refine programs, tools and tactics designed to reach and increase the democratic participation of unmarried women and the rest of the RAE.
WVWV’s commitment to R&D has enabled it to continually bend the cost curve, lower the cost per net additional vote, produce a net effect (a net additional vote or other activity that would not have happened were it not for WVWV’s programs), increase response rates, and register more than a million unmarried women and other RAE citizens to vote.
To increase the participation of unmarried women in 2012, WVWV and the VPC are conducting research-driven year-round civic engagement, information-raising and voter registration, Vote by Mail (VBM), turnout and other mobilization programs in targeted states.