Does Relationship Status Determine A Woman’s Political Stance?

October 14, 2015 | Kelly Tatera

Women surrounded by political posters, learning how to vote in 1935
Photo credit: Kheel Center/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

A new study suggests that unmarried women tend to be more liberal and Democratic because they feel the fate of other women will also affect their own.

Beyonce’s anthem about putting a ring on it doesn’t seem to concern many liberal and Democratic ladies. In fact, a new study suggests that single women tend to be more liberal and Democratic than married women because they’re more concerned about the status of women as a collective group, not their individual relationship status.

Sociologists at Oregon State University analyzed data from the 2010 American National Election Study (ANES) which asks a variety of questions about political attitudes and behaviors. The researchers compared and contrasted the responses of married, never married, divorced, and widowed women 18 years of age and older.

SEE ALSO: Having Kids Before Marriage No Longer Increases the Chance of Divorce

The research revealed that unmarried women, both never-married or divorced, are much more likely to hold the view that all women have a “linked fate,” meaning that an individual woman’s chance at success depends on the status of women as a whole. According to Kelsy Krestchmer, assistant professor of sociology at Oregon State University and co-author of the study, this notion of “linked fate” explains a significant amount of the political divergence between single and married women.

“Over 67 percent of never married women and 66 percent of divorced women perceive what happens to other women as having some or a lot to do with what happens in their own lives,” Kretschmer explains. “Only 56.5 percent of married women hold the same views.”

Basically, when a single or divorced woman votes for a political candidate, she’s thinking in terms of how the candidate’s policies will benefit women as a whole group. “This could encompass things such as wage equality, workplace protections for pregnancy and maternity leave, anti-domestic violence laws, and welfare expansion,” said Kretschmer. “These issues have been most championed in the United States by liberals, female representatives, and the Democratic Party.”

Interestingly, the views of widowed women seem to align best with those of married women. Widowed women are usually older, and many widows still receive their husband’s pensions, social security, and health benefits. “In other words, despite not having a husband, many widows are still engaged in the marriage institution in ways that make them more like married women than never married or divorced women,” Kretschmer said.

Traditional explanations for why married women tend to be more conservative or Republican include income, employment status, number of children, attitudes about gender discrimination, and views on traditional gender roles. However, the study found that these points surprisingly don’t offer a strong explanation for the marriage gap in political preferences.

Kretschmer says the researchers were surprised by the finding. “We found that whether or not a woman has a sense of linked fate with other women does a better job than any of these previously considered variables of explaining why the marriage gap exists, and yet no one is talking about this as an important factor in women’s political preferences,” she said.

However, society as a whole is in the midst of a huge cultural shift, with movements like feminism bearing the torch. It’s becoming more normal for women to settle down in marriage at later ages after first spending years building successful careers. With this change, the marriage gap in political preferences may narrow. Married women may have more of a tendency to sustain liberal or Democratic views well into marriage, defending the rights of all women to succeed.

But for now, unmarried women in the US represent more than 25 percent of the voting population, so they’re a political force to be reckoned with. Mr. Trump may have to put his questionable comments about women to rest if he wants a chance at becoming the next leader of the country.


If you enjoyed learning about the effect of marriage on political stance, check out this feature on which political party enjoys happier marriages.

Hot Topics

Facebook comments