There's a new voting bloc on the rise and, unfortunately for Republicans, it's not the aging, disaffected, white male small business owner who hauled himself up by his bootstraps to teach himself accounting and microeconomics because he'd be damned if he'd sit through a single lecture at an elitist academic institution — it's the single woman.
Slate's Hanna Rosin writes that single-women already comprise the largest and fastest-growing voting segment, comprising some 55 million potential voters and adding 1 million new voters each year. To put such rapid growth in perspective, just last year single women made up a quarter of the voting population, about the same number as self-identifying white evangelical Christians and, according to Rosin, if the trend continues, single women could form a base for Barack Obama and future Democratic candidates similar to how evangelicals formed a reliable base for previous Republican candidates.
These women, however, do not form nearly such as homogeneous group as other voting blocs. They can be roughly partitioned into two distinct — and previously disparate — groups, the first being younger, urban-dwelling, college-educated women who are likely to be working, politically-progressive, and most likely to be called a slut by human Sarlacc pit Rush Limbaugh. The second group is much larger and composed of women without college degrees, who wouldn't self-identify as feminists, and who remained unmarried not because they don't necessarily believe in "family values," but because eligible bachelors are few and far between, with more men without college degrees languishing in unemployment than ever before. Members of this latter group have been forced by economic and social circumstances into what Harvard sociologist Kathy Edin calls an "ambiguous independence," becoming heads of their own households and often struggling to make ends meet. This tough-slog through independence, moreover, has made them acutely intolerant to political posturing over their sex lives, and though some Republicans count the recent low-marks GOP candidates have been garnering among female voters as a fleeting trend, Rosin is quick to point out that the rise of single-women undermines the core Republican social message of the nuclear American family.
Candidates like Mitt Romney, whose sprawling family of J. Crew models alienates even especially fecund families who are otherwise receptive to all the family values talking points, represent a fundamental disconnect between the image Republicans project and the growing single-woman voting bloc. Where the Romneys are roasting s'mores by their fire pit and playing fetch with the family dog, single women in both groups are creating lives for themselves, forging career paths through male-dominated industries, juggling a wide array of living expenses, and fending off GOP sorties into their gynecologist's office. Though a string of high-profile female candidates such as Sarah Palin and even, gulp, Michele Bachmann from the not-too-distant past managed to encourage more women to vote Republican, the recent Republican self-immolation over women's healthcare and, more specifically, reproductive rights, proves that the party is playing its folksy music to a deaf crowd, as Obama's lead among women over tenuous Republican front runner Mitt Romney has widened from 45-37 to 65-30 since November.
Rise of the Single-Woman Voter [Slate]