While there’s been lots of discussion about the gender gap between the candidates, we wondered what role did mothers play in President Barack Obama’s reelection yesterday? It turns out that while mothers were key, single mothers were the secret weapon. Here’s why:
Given the past few months of Republican candidates’ embarrassing pronouncements (see Akin, Mourdock, Ryan) about women’s reproductive rights and super powers, most pundits predicted more women would vote for Democratic candidates, especially Barack Obama.
They were right, but for the wrong reason. Based on yesterday’s exit polls from Edison Research posted by CNN and Associated Press, more women did vote than men did, and significantly more of them chose to vote for Obama (55 percent) than for Romney (44 percent). Also, as predicted, more men voted for Mitt Romney (52 percent) than for President Obama (45 percent).
Interestingly, while there were more married women (31 percent) voting than single women (23 percent), and the married women tended to vote with their husbands, preferring Romney (53 percent) to Obama (46 percent), Obama still managed to win among women.
What demographic slice did all the pundits miss and the Republicans ignore? Single mothers.
Calculating the “Single Mother Factor”
Here’s the math. Over 118 million people voted for either Barack Obama (60.5 million) or Mitt Romney (57.7 million). Obama won by approximately 2.8 million votes.
There are more women than men in the United States. 51 percent of the population are female.
A larger percentage of women are registered to vote than are men. Among eligible voters, 73 percent of women are registered voters, 69 percent of men registered.
More women voted in 2012 than men did, both as a straight number and as a percentage of eligible voters. Nationally, 53 percent of the voters were female and 47 percent of the voters were male.
Mothers vastly outnumber fathers in the United States. The US Census Bureau tells us approximately 85.4 million Americans are mothers and 70.1 million are fathers. This number includes adults whose children are grown and no longer living at home.
The majority of women voters are mothers. By age 44, 81 percent of women are mothers.
Mothers with kids under 18 at home voted overwhelmingly for Obama. According to the exit polls, 56 percent of mothers voted for Obama while only 43 percent of them voted for Romney. That’s a 13 point gap between candidates.
Single women represented the single largest voting bloc for Obama, at 23 percent of the voters and over two-thirds of them voted for Obama. That means more than 18 million single women voted for Obama, which is a larger identifiable group than the 14.3 million African-Americans who voted for him.
Currently about 10 million women are single mothers caring for children younger than 18 in their homes.
Single mothers have become synonymous with poverty in the United States. According to The Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund, “people in single mother families had a poverty rate of 42.2% and an extreme poverty rate of 21.6%. Poverty means an income less than the official poverty standard, $14,570 for a family of two in 2010. Extreme poverty means an income less than half the poverty standard.”
However, poverty doesn’t mean powerless. Based on the factors above, we can estimate that between 4.1 million and 4.9 million single mothers voted for President Barack Obama yesterday, far more than the 2.8 million he received for the win over Mitt Romney.
We believe that single mothers may have been the overlooked voting bloc that kept President Obama in office. According to several progressive pundits, Mitt Romney blamed single mothers for gun violence in his clumsy answer at the October 16, 2012 town hall debate to the question about the Aurora, Colorado movie theater killings. That may or may not have been important to single mothers. However, perhaps the Republicans need to reevaluate their positions on other more relevant issues, like the minimum wage, women’s rights, reproductive rights, and equality in the workplace to learn why single mothers voted against them.