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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

DCorps: Unmarried Women Cast Deciding Votes in Virginia Election

The following article by Stan Greenberg and James Carville, Democracy Corps Erica Seifert, Democracy Corps and Page Gardner, Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund is cross-posted from a Democracy Corps e-blast:
On November 5, 2013, Terry McAuliffe won the gubernatorial election with the overwhelming support of Virginia’s unmarried women. Unmarried women, who gave McAuliffe two thirds of their votes, matching President Obama’s vote among this group, were decisive in the Democrat’s narrow victory over Republican Ken Cuccinelli. While unmarried women turned out in the off-year election in smaller numbers than in 2012 and slightly below 2009, they supported McAuliffe in strong numbers. This is both a good early indicator for Democrats in 2014, but also an equally important warning sign. Democrats need these voters to win and that means turnout to vote. But in order to turn them out, Democrats must speak to the issues that matter to them most.
Key findings
• Unmarried women made the difference in this election. Unmarried women voted for Terry McAuliffe by a decisive 42-point margin (67 to 25 percent). Married women, by contrast, voted Cuccinelli by 9 points.
• Marital status was clearly determinative in this election. If unmarried women had voted as married women, Ken Cuccinelli would have won the election by 7 points.
• While unmarried women supported McAuliffe at similar rates as they supported Obama in 2012, their share of the vote declined from 22 percent in the presidential election year to 18 percent in 2013 (and from 19 percent in 2009). Campaigns have to work to get these voters to the polls- and give unmarried women a reason to turn out in 2014 by speaking to the issues that matter most to them.
• The most important issues for unmarried women in this election were the economy, healthcare, and choice issues. But compared to every other group, health care and abortion mattered to them in their vote.
• Vote share among all groups in the Rising American Electorate dropped from 2012 to 2013, due to smaller share among unmarried women and young voters. Unmarried women, who were a quarter of the presidential year electorate, represented 18 percent of Virginia voters in 2013.
• However, African Americans – just 16 percent of the 2009 electorate in Virginia – represented 20 percent of Virginia voters in 2013.
• While young voters supported McAuliffe in stronger numbers this year than they did Creigh Deeds in 2009, they were far less supportive of McAuliffe than they were of President Obama. However, their votes largely did not move to the Republican column. Instead, young people supported independent candidates in higher proportions than the electorate as a whole.
Read the full memo here.

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