Yesterday the National Education Association issued a press release announcing its participation in the Obama “truth team.” Not being highly familiar with the science of analyzing demographic groups for political campaigns, I was halted for a moment by the following paragraph:
With members in every congressional district, NEA is gearing up to reach out and educate millions of eligible voters during the 2012 election year, focusing on association members and their families. NEA also is partnering with other nonprofit organizations to encourage strong voter turnout—especially among minorities and unmarried women.
Unmarried women? Seemed like a strange sub-group for NEA’s focus. Single moms perhaps, but unmarried women?
A little research turned up the fact that there are few voter gaps these days as wide as that between married women and unmarried women. A February 2010 analyis by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner for Women’s Voices, Women Vote spelled it out:
Unmarried women played a critical role in the Democratic surge in the last two electoral cycles, delivering as much as a third of the total Democratic vote in each. As participation among unmarried women has increased dramatically and the participation marriage gap has been shrinking, the marriage gap in the candidate choices—the difference in vote preferences between married women and unmarried women—has increased, and as unmarried women have increased the margins, they have generally provided support to more progressive candidates.
The gap remained large for the 2010 election, but the support of unmarried women for Democrats shrank to 57%…
…and the worry is that their support could shrink even more in 2012.
All of this may not be news to you, but it does help illustrate NEA’s role in shoring up traditional Democratic constituencies – labor, minorities and unmarried women. There isn’t much call for NEA to sway swing voters, independents, retirees, or other demographic sub-groups.
Plus lumping “unmarried” women together in a single group is curious in itself. Why wouldn’t there be significant internal gaps in this group among single women, co-habiting women and divorced women?
Still, it will be interesting to follow the message NEA and its union colleagues use to get out the unmarried vote… and what version of the script they use for “separated.”