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Two-thirds of single women voted for Obama, according to the exit polls taken on the day of the election. On the other hand, the majority — 53 percent — of married women went for Romney. With marriage on the decline, figured one pundit,
If [Republicans] are unable to attract the support of more unmarried female voters in future elections, they could face years in the political wilderness.
And Fox News reported:
Marital status was a more significant factor than gender this year. Women, a traditional Democratic voting group, backed Obama by 11 points — about the same as by 13 points in 2008. Even so, married women backed Romney by 7 points (an improvement from McCain's +3 showing). Men backed Romney (52-45 percent), and married men backed him by an even wider margin (60-38 percent).
But these conclusions are overdrawn, because "unmarried women" are a data category more than a lived social group. Most people who aren't married will get married. And people who are likely not to get married — such as poor people with fewer marriage prospects — tend to have traditional views about marriage anyway. So what distinguishes unmarried women? Birth control is a common explanation. But almost everyone thinks birth control is okay these days, and although single women might be more worried about access, that's because they're less likely to have health insurance. In short, even if some women do have a strong identity as members of the single-women category, most unmarried women are just passing through.
What is grouping good for?
From the large sample interviewed by the major media's exit polling consortium, we can see that simple demography can make some very strong predictions. At the extreme, with just two data points — race and gender — we can guess how a person voted 96 percent of the time, if she's a black woman.