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Women Voters' 'Marriage Gap' And The Midterms

Sep 26, 2018
Originally published on September 26, 2018 8:29 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

All right. We're going to hear now about the concept called the marriage gap. For decades, married women have voted more Republican than women who are single, but that dynamic may be shifting in this year's midterm elections. Here's NPR's Asma Khalid.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: I came to the suburbs of Detroit, Mich., where two women, a Republican and a Democrat, both in their 30s, are vying for an open seat in Congress. It's a place where you can really hear the partisan divides among women voters. When you ask Republicans what they like about President Trump, a lot of them give you some iteration of this.

DEB O'HAGAN: The economy - oh, my gosh. I think it took off the day after the election.

ELISE DEMIRYAN: I just think he's doing a lot for the economy.

ESTHER LITTMANN: The stock market is high. There are more people employed now.

KHALID: That was Deb O'Hagan, Elise Demiryan and Esther Littmann. I met Littmann at a country club up a grand, curved staircase where the local Republican Women's Club was meeting for a luncheon. Littmann says her conservative politics go back to her roots as an immigrant. Her parents were fiscal conservatives.

LITTMANN: They definitely leaned Republican, and I married a man who is also a Republican. In fact, he's an economist, and so we both agreed on - politically.

KHALID: Littmann is 78 with three grown children. The economy has always attracted her to the GOP, but she's noticed younger women are different.

LITTMANN: A lot of younger women, they haven't experienced life enough. Right now, I feel like a lot of younger women who are in favor of socialism don't really understand the economy.

KHALID: Fewer than 50 percent of American women are married, but the marriage gap isn't entirely about all those single ladies. It's tied to age. Young, married women are more likely to be liberal. I meet Christine Garcia in a park. She's pushing her daughter on the swing.

CHRISTINE GARCIA: I would be probably one of those people who are Republican in terms of, you know, fiscal. But social, I find myself much more moderate, closer to more of a Democrat.

KHALID: Garcia, who's married, wouldn't say who she voted for in 2016, but she finds Trump unpresidential.

GARCIA: I can tell you I don't like him as a person. I don't have a good feeling he comes on and when I see him.

KHALID: Garcia insists she would not vote for the president in 2020.

ANNA GREENBERG: Married women have, especially in the last six months or so, sort of turned against Trump and also are starting to lean towards voting more Democratic in the congressional races.

KHALID: That's Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg, and she says her most recent polling shows 57 percent of married women have an unfavorable opinion of the president. That number has increased nearly 20 percentage points in the last year and a half.

GREENBERG: I think there's some real partisan realignment here.

KHALID: Research has shown that married women are more conservative than unmarried women, in part because they're influenced more by social networks like church, as well as their husband's politics. But that might be an outdated theory. Around Michigan, I met married women who say they were never engaged in Democratic Party politics, but now they're knocking on doors and volunteering for candidates, women like Lori Jouppi.

LORI JOUPPI: 2016 was the time I said, I don't know if I can ever vote for a Republican again.

KHALID: Jouppi says voting Democratic probably costs her more money given her husband's income, but she's willing to pay more. Her friend, Sonia Patel, agrees, and she cites Trump's immigration policies.

SONIA PATEL: I'll pay taxes if it means the children can be with their parents.

KHALID: Patel is a stay-at-home mom who says she used to vote for a mix of Democrats and Republicans. She voted for Michigan's Republican Governor Rick Snyder but not anymore. I ask her what's changed.

PATEL: You know, my kids started growing up. I started looking at the world differently. I think it wasn't just about me anymore, and I started thinking about the kind of world I'm leaving for them.

KHALID: The big question is whether this is a side effect of President Trump or a permanent realignment. Asma Khalid, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF KNAPSACK'S "TELEPATH") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.