10 Points Down: The GOP Gender Gap is Really a Marriage Gap

Much has been written about the “gender gap” in American politics (you can read about it here, here, and here) – the notion that women are more likely to vote Democratic than Republican, while the opposite is true for men. While the gender gap does exist and is an important factor in understanding American politics, it overshadows another key factor: the marriage gap.

TargetPoint does regular national surveys used to train models that incorporate hundreds of variables, combining state-of-the-art predictive modeling with the underlying political knowledge needed to turn the models into actionable insights. With thousands of models of political behavior, TargetPoint’s library of work offers detailed intelligence about the state of the American electorate that can be broken down by practically any imaginable segment to create a granular-level understanding of the landscape.

TargetPoint’s research has found that the marriage gap – the difference between the margin in how married people would vote compared to the margin in how single people would vote – is approximately 30 points, nearly 20 points larger than the gender gap.

Republicans are losing with women by about 10 points, and winning with men by 1 – giving us a gender gap of 11 points. On the other hand, Republicans are winning by 7 points with married people and losing by 23 with single people – adding up to a much larger 30 point marriage gap.

Marriage Gap

With women, the marriage gap remains. Republicans actually lead by 2 points among married women. It’s among single women where Republicans are trailing – by 28 points. That 30 point marriage gap among women actually helps to explain the 11 point gender gap we see when it isn’t broken down by marital status.

Even when breaking it down by age, the marriage gap persists. With single women ages 18-24, Democrats lead by 38 points. But with married women of the same age, their lead shrinks to only 6 points.

The 30-point marriage gap exists among men as well. Single men lean Democratic by a 17 point margin, while Republicans lead among married men by 13 points.

The marriage gap exists when looking at parents as well. There’s about an 8 point “parent gap” – Republicans and Democrats are tied among registered voters who have children, while Republicans trail 8 points with voters who don’t. Yet the difference between single parents and married parents again gives us nearly a 30 point gap: Republicans lead by 8 point among married parents and trail by 20 among single parents.

The marriage gap is also key to understanding battleground states in the presidential election – like in Colorado, where it is 35 points, and Virginia, where it is 32. These are states the Republican nominee will likely need to win in order to win the presidency, and understanding the marriage gap in them is key to winning them in November.

Click the map to explore the interactive version.

Click the map to explore the interactive version.

Pundits love to talk about what demographics mean for elections and how they’ll affect the country’s electoral future. But the marriage gap – a gap that persists across gender, age, parental status, and more – may be one of the most important for understanding the electorate. A focus on the perceived gender gap while ignoring the marriage gap would be a mistake for Republicans heading into November.


 By Kaylin Bugos, Research Analyst

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