In 2004, 20 million unmarried women – single, divorced, separated or widowed – didn’t vote. In 2006, that number was 30 million. Depressing? Yes. But in 2008, these women are also known as the voting bloc that could determine the outcome of this election and many more to come.
Unmarried women make up the largest bloc of non-voters in the nation. Over 26 percent of eligible voters – 53 million people – are unmarried women. And for the first time in history there are as many women who are unmarried as married. A majority of households in the nation are headed by an unmarried person. Unmarried women are growing at twice the rate of married women since 2000, but are 9 percentage points less likely to register and 13 percentage points less likely to vote than married women.
Women’s Voices. Women Vote. (WVWV) is targeting 25 states in an effort to register over one million unmarried women and reach out to an additional 3 million “low-propensity voters.” (Unmarried women who are registered but didn’t vote in at least one of the last two presidential elections.) WVWV Founder and President, Page Gardner, says, “We are making sure the voices of women on their own are heard in the political process. Particularly, that they are heard from in terms of the strength of their numbers. Polling shows that these women are paying attention earlier than ever before and they are motivated. They are wanting change, they are desperate for change, and we are going to see their participation go up.” Gardner points to a recent study by the polling firm, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, that showed 85 percent of unmarried women saying they are so frustrated with the direction of the country, they are more likely to vote.
WVWV understands that it’s not just about registering the voters but also getting them to cast their ballots. “Given their income, many of these women are incredibly stretched,” Gardner says. “We have to not only take the registration to them, we have to take the voting booth to them too.” She says that in 2006 they conducted a vote-by-mail program that was “extraordinarily successful.” (All WVWV programs are tested before they are rolled out – with a control group and a treatment group – so the value of the program in gaining new voters and its cost-effectiveness can be determined.) In addition to registration forms, WVWV will be providing vote-by-mail applications so that women can vote at their convenience and take their time to study the candidates. The group also has a strong online presence, including widgets and banners that people can place on their own sites, allowing visitors to watch a “20 million Reasons” PSA campaign and register to vote.