Married voters favor Mitt Romney over President Barack Obama by a wide margin, 54% to 39%, says a new Gallup poll. Nonmarried voters, by contrast, favor President Obama over Mitt Romney 56% to 35%. Marriage, it seems, can help to predict how people will vote in the November 2012 election.
While married individuals have favored Republican candidates for quite some time in American politics, in recent elections, that gap has gotten even more stark. In 1996, married voters favored Republicans to Democrats 46% to 44%, and unmarried voters favored Democrats to Republicans 57% to 30%. That number has consistently trended upwards.
What explains the pattern? For one thing, Republicans have emphasized language of the family and family values in order to market themselves to this demographic. Just this weekend, vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan spoke to the Value Voters Summit in Washington, DC to describe the threat that President Obama poses to the institution of marriage and the American family. This is a similar line that we've heard all throughout the Republican primaries from socially conservative candidates like Rick Santorum.
Another possible theory is that nonmarried people are by and large young and single, and young people tend to vote Democrat based on their social positions. But, that doesn't explain the entire picture. The numbers reveal that support for Obama within the category of nonmarried varies between those who are single (61%), in a domestic partnership (62%), separated (58%), and divorced (51%).
The married correlation could have a lot to do with other types of demographic and socioeconomic trends. For example, Americans who describe themselves as "highly religious," those who are aged 30 or older, or those who earn at least $5,000 per month are more likely to be married. These groups also tend to vote Republican. Amongst voters aged 65 or older, for example, Romney leads with 52% support.
One interesting note for Obama and the Democrats is that fewer Americans are getting married these days. According to U.S. Census figures, 72% of all adults in America in 1960 were married. By 2000, that figure had fallen to 57%, and in 2012, to 53%. That spells trouble for Republican appeals to "family values." They'll need a new line of attack and marketing if they are to continue winning new coalitions of voters.