April 21st, 2008
05:50 PM ET

Will unmarried women choose the next president?

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/POLITICS/04/21/unmarried.voters/art.lawyer.jpg caption="Pennsylvania attorney Maria Wing, 28, says it's becoming increasingly difficult to make it on one income."]

Program note: See Randi's report on the influence of unmarried women on the election on AC360° tonight at 10pm ET.

Randi Kaye
360° Correspondent


If only the candidates had the luxury of time.. to meet with unmarried women in Pennsylvania and hear their plea.

I had the chance to do that last week and it was such an eye-opener.

First of all, you should know, a quarter of all eligible voters in Pennsylvania are unmarried women. One in four voters!

Unmarried women are the ultimate economy voter. Their average income is about $30,000 a year. Twenty percent of them are single moms and they tend to vote Democratic, which makes them a virtual “gold mine” for Democratic candidates. When I suggested to the women I interviewed that they are a gold mine, they chuckled.

They certainly don’t feel like one. They are struggling and they’re not sure if the candidates are noticing.

One of the women, Maria Wing, a lawyer in Philadelphia, told me about one third of her income goes to student loans and another third to house payments. She says, “after Uncle Sam gets paid, and Fannie Mae gets paid, and housing expenses get paid, mama only has a couple hundred dollars to go out. I’m still driving my beat up Sentra from law school.”

Maria was one of four unmarried women that we interviewed. Two are voting for Barack Obama and two are voting for Hillary Clinton. They disagreed on some policy issues but they all agreed their voting bloc needs help. They care about real-life economic needs: healthcare, childcare, raising the minimum wage, and equal pay. They make about 56 cents on the dollar compared to men. Married women earn about 77 cents on that same dollar. Unmarried women are three times more likely than married women to lack healthcare.

Unmarried women in college are having a tough time paying for it, and some are already worried about healthcare costs once they graduate. Home prices are dropping and they are watching their investments slip away. No wonder this year they want to make sure their voices are heard.

Unlike in 2006, when nearly one million unmarried women in Pennsylvania stayed home on Election Day, this year many say they will hit the polls. Around the country, unmarried women have been voting in the primaries at historic levels, so Pennsylvania is expecting the same thing. The campaigns sure hope they turn out and have been aggressively targeting single women. Even hiring them to work on the campaigns.

If they continue to mobilize as they have been, do you think unmarried really have the power to determine the next president? A recent study shows 58 percent of single women in Pennsylvania consider themselves Democrats, compared to just 18 percent as Republicans.

In Pennsylvania, they are split between Clinton and Obama. Clinton has a slight edge with the group, 50 to 48 percent.

The head of Women’s Voices, Women Vote Action Fund predicts “unmarried women will be to progressives what evangelicals were to conservatives and their participation rate and their policy agenda will be heard and will determine the future of this country."

Do you think the candidates are listening?


Filed under: Randi Kaye • Raw Politics
soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. sherrie50

    Thanks Joyce for clearing those statements.

    April 22, 2008 at 1:03 pm |
  2. Joyce

    To Harriet and Cynthia - Obama didn't grow up in a single mom household - his mom gave him to her parents to raise! Get your facts straight. Obama doesn't have a clue about struggling.

    April 22, 2008 at 12:16 pm |
  3. Joyce

    Single women have always had the hardest time of it in this Nation since and will continue to have it the hardest. Until the politicians in this country realize that higher taxes aren't the answer and that college should be affordable for everyone, not just athletes and minorities and rich folks, single moms will struggle.
    Neither Obama, Clinton or McCain know what it's like down here in the trenches - they talk about issues that most of us can't relate to and they have no answers available to us as we aren't allowed to ask the questions we want answers to.

    April 22, 2008 at 12:13 pm |
  4. Sharon

    ooops....one more comment from Sharon:
    I am hoping and praying that Senator Obama can relate to the circumstances surrounding single moms and their children.

    April 22, 2008 at 11:48 am |
  5. Sharon

    I certainly hope that unmarried women cast their vote today and that we affect the Primary and General Election. It must be recognized that women are not on the same pay scales as men in the workplace, and many (too many) of these unmarried women have a great love and responsibility for children. Our system encourages education, yet it allows men to complete their child support obligation, as well as other finanicial necessities once our children reach the age of 18 (as if obligations disappear for college students????). This desperately needs attention.

    April 22, 2008 at 11:43 am |
  6. thasan/ohio

    I'm still tryng to figure out what exactly does marriage have to do with voting...single or not single? how does that determine who you will/wont vote for?..get married then.. or dont who cares.. now i could understand if this story were about single mothers/single fathers and the different voting issues between them and 2parent households(that actually make sense)need a better story AC...i'm rooting for ya!

    April 22, 2008 at 11:37 am |
  7. Loretta

    I am a single 38 year old teacher who lives in Florida. I can relate to the problems single women face. I do not have children, but with my salary and everything being so expensive it is hard to stay above ground. I don't know how some single mothers cope. Something needs to be done and hopefully our next president will be able to do something about it.

    April 22, 2008 at 11:09 am |
  8. Debbie, NJ

    Hillary is out of touch with single moms. I just put my son thru College and to do it I had to borrow off my home, get loans, hit my pension. Thank God he graduated and is working now but he now is paying for the loans. I have another child whom I desire to send to college but I've used up my resources so I don't know how she's going. It is scary not knowing what's happening with the housing market when you don't have a backup. Having to be responsible for everything all the time is overwhelming and Obama grew up in this type of household. He is familiar with the single mom issues.

    April 22, 2008 at 10:27 am |
  9. Kathy, Texas

    "He presumably also knows the consequences of her having lousy taste in men, a situation common among “single mothers.”

    It's not lousy taste in men. I'm sure they were just lousy men.

    Most single mothers would love to have a companion to share life and love with other than her children. I'm sure these single mothers love their children unconditionally and would do nothing knowingly to harm them (ie: date a lousy loser). BUT you have to also accept the fact that there are some bottomfeeders out there that see single mothers as a "free ride"...and I'm not talking money. Men, just like women, can be real smooth talkers when they want something. Positive proof of that are the two democratic candidates that are in the running...full of sunshine and smiles...but where will they be when the going is tough? Which has the courage to take that final stand and be held accountable for the words? Most single mothers that have "dated" losers can sift through the garbage talk faster than most....

    April 22, 2008 at 8:53 am |
  10. neecee

    Jes of Canada, shame on you – I'm Canadian living in the middle east and I have experienced a considerable drop in my income over the years because of the weak US Dollar, which is a direct result of the no brainer foreign policies and other shinnigans of GWB and his father's old cronnies.
    HC in the white house will be the democratic version of GWB. She will bring a whole lot of baggage (overweight) from her past ANNND her husband's old cronnies. The woman has shown she is dishonest and will do and say anything to get elected.
    People are afraid of change, they would rather suffer with what they know, than go with what they don't know even when what they don't know is good for them.
    What experience did bill clinton have when he was elected president? NADA, ZIP. he was not in the senate voting on important policies and laws which affected the nation. He was slipping in and out of women's drawers while running some small state.
    Rona Radcliffe, you said it: "confident, distinguished, articulate, knows how to command respect"
    America needs someone who will be repsected on the international scene. Leaders around the world knows HC, by her own admission. They know her politics. People are tired of the same ole' washington politics – What can she bring to the table that is new? I suspect she does not command the respect of world leaders.
    A change's gonna come people. Obama for change in '08

    April 22, 2008 at 2:26 am |
  11. Annie Kate

    Married or single we are all having problems in this economy. Gas is higher each day, food costs are rising, and for those whose main asset is a house – well those are declining in value but we have to pay taxes on the old appraisal which is higher than expected market value now. Health care is unaffordable and I worry that if the Democrats just mandate you have health care but do nothing to make it affordable than we will be in a worse shape than we are now. I feel the quicksand closing over my head some days.

    I do know that financially my children and I were better off during the Clinton years. So I'm seriously considering voting for Hilliary but I haven't decided completely yet. Of course living in Alabama which is a Republican state by tradition who I pick to vote for may be irrelevant.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    April 22, 2008 at 12:47 am |
  12. Patsy

    Cynthia wrote:

    “I agree with Harriet, Senator Obama knows from watching his mother handling the business of running a household as a single woman.”

    Have you all forgotten that Obama's mother left him to be raised by his grand parents (her parents) for many years ??

    April 21, 2008 at 11:17 pm |
  13. Rona Radcliffe

    I have grown very concerned about the outcome of this Election. I am a recently divorced, now single mother raising two children and I Need to cast my vote (which I will do again in November) for a President who is confident, strong, articulate, understands how to lead, distinguished and knows how to command respect. The person whom I have described is Sen Barack Obama. Sen Clinton can't rely on what her husband did while he was president. The C.H.I.P program is nice, but I still can't get approved for that, health care at my office cost too much, Gas is Extremely High and I have to buy store brand items in order to feed my family. I need this economy to get better!!! And Barack can make it happen......Go Barack Go!!!

    April 21, 2008 at 10:32 pm |
  14. Mike in NYC

    Cynthia wrote:

    "I agree with Harriet, Senator Obama knows from watching his mother handling the business of running a household as a single woman."

    He presumably also knows the consequences of her having lousy taste in men, a situation common among "single mothers."

    April 21, 2008 at 10:00 pm |
  15. June

    I'm a 68 year old unmarried woman and I already have chosen the next President. it's Barack Obama.

    April 21, 2008 at 9:55 pm |
  16. virginia

    I am a single mother of 4 kids and I feel that Sen Obama understand single woman. I am voting for the first time because of him. I feel Sen. Clinton doesn't know how hard it is to work three jobs to put food on table and say to your kids son you can not have new shoes. Hillary doesn't know how it feel to cry your self to sleep thinking how to pay $900..00 rent and $250.00 light bill food that cost about $250.00 weekly because i make to much to get food stamp. Hillary and her silver spoon needs to stop fighting for the party i hope there will still be an Obama/Hillary ticket.


    April 21, 2008 at 9:17 pm |
  17. Michelle

    Women have the ability to earn a living now so they don't have to be married. Women can now also choose to divorce without fearing poverty. And many women remain single because they prefer a single lifestyle or their jobs make it difficult for them to maintain relationships and have children.

    The majority of single women I know are independent thinkers. They are educated people who care about their communities. Many of them are teachers and professionals who work in education or health care fields. It strikes me that if single women are indeed supporting Barack Obama it may be because they can understand where he is coming from, respect him as a person and feel he is the best candidate for President at this time in history.

    April 21, 2008 at 9:06 pm |
  18. jes from Canada

    Obama has not been around long enough to have learned or earned squat!! I hope (know) if Obama cons his way to where his is the Demo. candidate, McCain will kick the crap out of him. For the good of both the USA & Canada. GO HILARY if not GO McCAIN!!!!!!

    April 21, 2008 at 9:05 pm |
  19. Cynthia

    I agree with Harriet, Senator Obama knows from watching his mother handling the business of running a household as a single woman.

    April 21, 2008 at 8:33 pm |
  20. Rob, Arvada, CO

    Women and Catholics in Pennsylvania will support Barack Obama! Get over it, Jimmy! It's the eleventh hour, and Hillary has already gone to bed. We don't need someone who uses fear tactics to scare up votes. Obama stands for Pennsylvania, he stands for America. And he will win Pennsylvania!

    April 21, 2008 at 8:19 pm |
  21. Sherri


    I would hope the candidates attempt to gather imput from unmarried women. We have 'glass ceiling's, 'gender bias', marital status bias, stigmas, you name it. Our culture still has a mindset that somewhere in a single woman's background there is a man who is supporting her- so she doesn't really need to be paid what a man is for equal work and education and experience. Show me this person- I'd really like to meet him and put a stack of outstanding bills in his lap, which he can pay while on the way to fill up my car with gas and buy food. Until real equality in the workplace exists- women will vote for those who give the appearance of grasping just how difficult it is to support yourself as a single woman. Women still have to be twice as good, work twice as hard, all the while smiling and dancing backwards in high heels. It would be refreshing to feel that the candidates find single women valuable to the democratic process- thus we can only hope they have been listening.

    April 21, 2008 at 8:12 pm |
  22. Harriet

    I think the women forgot that Obama was raised in a single parent home unlike Hillary.

    April 21, 2008 at 7:28 pm |
  23. jimmy vekmen


    April 21, 2008 at 7:16 pm |
  24. AZM

    I doubt it... they listen when you need a bus ride to vote and then forget about you for four years.

    As a single parent it is tough... I feel for all in that boat.

    April 21, 2008 at 6:33 pm |
  25. Tammy

    As a Republican woman, I have always believed my vote counted. Being a single woman was never a factor to me in my choice of candidates nor the issues that concerned me. I wonder if I'm an outlier or the norm? More importantly, have single women become the new demographic card in this debacle of a Democratic race (because God forbid anyone should actually care to discuss and deal with the real issues facing our nation)?

    April 21, 2008 at 6:28 pm |
  26. Taj

    Unmarried women should certainly go & vote. Education in this country is very expensive. Lot of parents support their children thru UG degree. The problem I see is lot of the boys & girls start dating in high schools & do not focus on education. They should first finish their UG education before start living with boys. Boys & girls become too independent too early & lose the support from parents. Education shoud be made priority & cheaper for everybody. The Governament should help students to get education. This Govt is screwed up in everything they do. Change the system. The richest country in the world does not help its citizens enough & squander.

    April 21, 2008 at 6:20 pm |