Poll: Voters Divided Along Marital Lines

The gender gap just might be passé. This year's electorate currently is divided more along marital lines than gender lines, a contrast from the last presidential election.

Men support George W. Bush over John Kerry by an eight-point margin in the latest ABC News tracking poll, while women are split between the candidates. In 2000 there was a bigger difference between the sexes: Bush +11 among men, Al Gore +11 among women.

Polls are not predictive and the final breakdown remains to be seen. But as of now, marital status tells more of a story. Married voters -- men and women -- are strong Bush groups: Married women support him by 19 points, 56 percent-37 percent, and married men by 22 points, 59 percent-37 percent. Kerry, though, is favored by six in 10 single men and women alike.

One difficulty for Kerry is that there are a lot more married voters than single ones. More than a third of likely voters, 37 percent, are single, compared with 63 percent married. That's very similar to the turnout in 2000, as measured in the national exit poll.

Overall, this ABC News tracking poll, based on interviews Tuesday through Thursday, finds Bush with 50 percent support among likely voters, Kerry with 46 percent and 1 percent for Ralph Nader. That's about where it's been since Saturday.

The Marital Gap
Bush Kerry
Marrieds58% 37
Singles38 60
Married Men59 37
Single Men39 60
Married Women56 37
Single Women37 60

Sex and Marriage

What's different from 2000 is Bush's bigger advantage among married women, and his bigger shortfall among single men. Bush in 2000 ran about evenly with Gore among married women and single men alike. Now Bush is winning married women, but losing single men.

Sampling, data collection and tabulation for this poll were done by TNS.

Married women and single men -- two more swingable groups -- have indeed been the most changeable. Candidate support among married men (a core Bush group) and single women (a core Kerry group) has been largely consistent since tracking began Oct. 1. By contrast, Bush is doing a bit better now with married women, and Kerry with single men.

Age is a significant factor here. Single men and women are disproportionately young, and, as per yesterday's ABC News tracking poll analysis, Kerry does best with young voters -- one of the groups whose turnout may prove critical.

It follows that among single voters, Kerry does best with young singles; he leads but less widely among older single women and older single men divide about evenly. (Singles include people who have never been married, as well as those who are separated, divorced or widowed.) Bush's support is even among married men across age, and a bit better among younger married women than older ones.

Issues and Attributes

Issue priorities in this election reflect the difference in vote preference between married and single voters. Married voters are more likely to cite terrorism as the most important issue in their vote -- Bush's best issue. Singles are more apt to cite Iraq and health care (the latter is Kerry's best issue).

Most Important Issue to Vote
Marrieds Singles
The Economy24% 27
Terrorism23 14
Iraq15 25
Health Care8 15
Education4 5
Other24 13

Ratings of Bush and Kerry follow a similar pattern as vote choice. Married men and women are more likely to approve of the job Bush is doing as president and to have a favorable impression of him. Among singles, though, some gender differences appear -- single men are closely split on their ratings of Bush, while single women by double digits disapprove of Bush's work in office and view him unfavorably.

Married likely voters are also more apt to call Bush the stronger leader and the more honest and trustworthy candidate. Again, single women are particularly negative on Bush. They're the least likely to call Bush the stronger leader, and the most likely to call Kerry more honest, clearer in his positions, and -- by 25 points -- to say he better understands their problems. Marrieds, in contrast, call Bush more empathetic.


Married voters are more likely to be Republicans, while single voters are far more likely to be Democrats (especially single women) -- helping to explain their vote differences. Singles are also more apt to be liberals, to be younger, to be minorities and to be in lower-income households -- all groups that are part of Kerry's base.

Bush's base, however, is larger. If, as usual, many more married voters show up at the polls on Election Day than single ones, Kerry will need to close the gap with Bush among married women.


This poll was conducted Oct. 19-21 among a random national sample of 1,803 adults, including 1,592 registered voters and 1,110 likely voters. The results have a three-point error margin for the likely voter sample. ABC News and "The Washington Post" are sharing data collection for this tracking poll, then independently applying their own models to arrive at likely voter estimates. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, Pa.

Click here for PDF version with full questionnaire and results.

See previous analyses in our Poll Vault.