Unmarried women voters — often dubbed the "Sex and the City" vote — have become hot political commodities in the 2008 race for the White House.
"Politicians will ignore this growing group of unmarried women voters at their peril," said Page Gardner, founder and president of Women's Voices Women's Vote, a group trying to register and politically mobilize the country's 50 million unmarried women voters.
For the first time in the nation's history, the number of unmarried, separated, divorced and widowed American women now equal the number of married women — representing 26 percent of the eligible voting population.
"This is the fastest-growing large demographic group in the country," Gardner said. Census data reflects a continuing decline in the percentage of married couple households, dropping from 52.5 percent of households in 2000 to 49.7 percent of households in 2006.
That upward trend could be a potential advantage for the Democratic Party in the 2008 election. The vast majority of married women have historically tended to vote Republican, while unmarried women have leaned Democratic in the voting booth.
But while the unmarried women's group is growing faster and faster, unmarried women do not reliably turn out to vote. Single, unmarried women are less likely to register, and less likely to vote.
"In 2004, 20 million unmarried women did not participate in the election," Gardner said, noting 15 million didn't bother to register and 5 million who registered didn't vote.
Women's political organizations are trying to change that and tap into the trend, targeting unmarried women, and urging them to vote.
Monday, Women's Voices Women's Vote launched three new public service ads, targeting the 50 million unmarried women in the United States.
The ads, which will run on cable television starting today, feature Hollywood actresses and regular working women, urging the 20 million unmarried women, who did not vote in 2004, to register and vote in 2008.
The ads will run in 25 states with a goal of registering more than 1 million single women to vote.
"This year, there are 20 million reasons to register and vote," says "Seinfeld" actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus in the ad, standing in a Hollywood version of the Oval Office as images flash of unmarried women. "Come on. Who do you want in here? You decide," she says.
"Twenty million haven't been voting at all," says Sarah Paulson, an actress on "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip." "We can change that."
The group has linked a voter registration tool to the ad, so that anyone who views it on the Web gets automatically sent to a voter registration page.
Gardner said, in coming weeks, the group will also be active on Facebook, reaching out to young, unmarried voters.
In connection with the ad launch, Hollywood actress Christine Lahti — who campaigned for Democratic nominee John Kerry in the 2004 election — wrote an Op-Ed, published Sunday on Yahoo.com and the Huffington Post.
"The truth is, these 20 million women have become the Holy Grail for both parties," she wrote.
The leading Democratic presidential candidates take the trend seriously, and most have put an effort into wooing women voters who will represent anywhere from 54 percent to 60 percent of the electorate in 2008.