Unmarried women, a key voting bloc for Democrats, are expected to vote less in 2014 than they did in the 2012 presidential election. But a new poll shows they may be motivated to turn out in greater numbers if candidates reach out on economic issues important to women, such as equal pay for equal work and protections for pregnant workers.
"It was very surprising how many women are looking at equal pay and other economic policy issues as relevant to them," said pollster Stan Greenberg, whose firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner conducted the poll with the Women Voices Women Vote Action Fund and the Voter Participation Center, on a call with reporters Monday. "Women on the edge who don't have the backup of a partner are trying to manage work life and family life – and they can be motivated to engage by Democrats on these issues."
In the 2012 election, some two-thirds of single female voters supported President Barack Obama over Republican candidate Mitt Romney, and those voters made up nearly one-quarter of the total electorate.
But unmarried women have historically turned out in far fewer numbers in midterm elections and 2014 is expected to be no different. In 2010, for example, some 38 percent of unmarried women turned out to vote, compared to 60 percent in 2008.
"Stemming that kind of drop off is going to be key," says Page Gardner, founder and president of the Women's Voices Women Vote Action Fund and the Voter Participation Center.
The survey found unmarried women are already less engaged and less likely to vote in 2014 then the general population, which Greenberg and Gardner attribute to a perception that Washington isn't addressing the issues they find important.
Here's what unmarried women do find important, according to the poll: 95 percent support equal pay for women who do equal work, 93 percent support protections for pregnant workers against firing or demotion when they take maternity leave and 89 percent support expanding access to affordable childcare.
"The strength of the support for these policies was really revealing," says Gardner. "I know that [unmarried women] are going to be a critical part of the electorate. The share of the electorate is going to determine by how much."