The GOP’s Other Problem: Marriage Gap Huge In 2012—But Marriage Is Starting To Disappear

In the two weeks since the election, the Main Stream Media has repeatedly congratulated the Democrats on their ingenuity in Electing A New People, and jeered at the Republicans for being white losers. This shouldn’t come as a surprise: as General Patton observed, “Americans love a winner”–even, apparently, when the losers are the Americans themselves.

Well, I have more bad news for what we laughingly call GOP strategists: Republicans face a second long-term demographic threat–the decline of marriage.

We’ve all heard about the Gender Gap, but it’s dwarfed by the Marriage Gap, which gets practically no MSM attention. Just as importing poor, unskilled foreigners boosts the ranks of Democratic voters in the long run, so does the decline of the American marriage.

2012 exit poll data confirms the Marriage Gap in voting remains enormous:

Gender Gap Vs Marriage Gap

This data comes from the big Reuters-Ipsos online poll of 40,000 voters, which proved reasonably reliable. In New York Times blogger Nate Silver’s post-election wrap-up, it came in sixth best out of 23 major polls in predicting the final margin. (The most accurate, by the way, was the TIPP poll conducted for Investor’s Business Daily, which VDARE.com kept tabs upon because it predicted that Romney wouldn’t carry enough white votes to win.)

Both the Reuters post-election panel and the more publicized but smaller Edison exit poll agree that the Marriage Gap was more significant than the Gender Gap. Reuters reports 56.6 percent of marrieds for Romney versus only 35.2 percent of singles. Edison (as reported by NBC) is nearly identical: it reports that Romney won 56 percent of married voters compared to only 35 percent of nonmarried voters.

What’s going on here?

Well, you’re not supposed to say this in public, but the GOP traditionally gets most of its votes from people who more or less have their acts together, while the Democrats appeal most strongly to the various resentful fringes of society.

The prototypical Romney voter might be the loser’s wife, Ann Romney: married for 43 years so far, with five children and 18 grandchildren.

The prototypical Obama voter? Hard to beat the President’s late mother, Ann Dunham Obama Soetoro, impregnated at 17 by a passing African polygamist, briefly and bigamously married to him, then married for a while to an Indonesian. She finally died single and without her peeved son bothering to visit her. (I’m pretty sure this will not happen to Ann Romney.)

The fact that Ann Romney has 23 legitimate descendants seemed to strike many people, especially politicized single women in the MSM, as creepy, if not downright personally insulting. In contrast, they find Ann Dunham Obama Soetoro, with her lifetime of foolish, self-centered decisions, an inspiring role model

The decline of the American marriage is rapid and its results are radical. For example, here’s a graph I created recently for Taki’s Magazine on the growth of the illegitimacy rate:

Illegitimacy rates

How can the more conservative party to argue for conservative behavior when more than two out of five new babies are born bastards—including 29 percent of children born to white women? To give some perspective, in 1960, 65.9 percent of all women over 15 in American were married. In 2009, it was 50.6.  [When Marriage Disappears: The New Middle America by Brad Wilcox (PDF) ]

Since we almost never hear any MSM pundits talk about the Marriage Gap, it’s superficially plausible to assume it might just be an artifact of some other demographic trait, such as race or age. You might figure: Obama famously appeals to nonwhites and the young, both of whom are less likely to be married, so that’s probably driving Sailer’s Marriage Gap, right?

But the decisive advantage of the Reuters-Ipsos poll: it offers its American Mosaic Polling Explorer to crosstab its data as you like. In 2012, the two post-election polls’ demographic results appear about equally plausible, but Reuters’ American Mosaic is vastly more useful the independent-minded inquirer than the canned Edison numbers offered by the big media outlets.

(Some polling wonkery: rather than call people, Reuters put together a large panel of respondents via the Internet who volunteered to answer questions about their politics and demographics. The Reuters pollsters then take the unbalanced raw numbers and project them to fit the assumed demographics of actual voters The panel features a disproportionate number of white women voters–common because, at least in my experience in the marketing research industry, white women tend to be the most cooperative and reliable group at reporting their behavior and opinions. This excess of women in the Reuters panel isn’t ideal, but since everybody is talking about the Republican War on Women, it means we at least have excellent sample sizes of women to drill down upon.)

(More wonkery: in using Reuters’ American Mosaic data, I’m choosing to define “married” as married or widowed. This makes the Marriage Gap slightly smaller, but bereavement is an inevitable side effect of marriage, so it wouldn’t be cricket to point out to the GOP the electoral advantages of pro-marriage policies without including widows and widowers. I’m counting as “single” everybody never married, living together, separated, or divorced.)

(Yet more wonkery: I’m excluding Third Party candidate voters to declutter the results. In reality, both major candidates did a little less than a point worse than my graphs imply because of leakage of about 1.6 percentage points of the vote to other candidates. But, it’s tiresome and potentially misleading to worry about minor differences caused by minor candidates, so I’ll report Romney’s percentage of each demographic as his share of just voters who picked either Romney or Obama.)

Because Reuters lets us drill down to make apples-to-apples comparisons, we can look at just white voters:

White Gender/Marriage Gap

Among whites only, the Marriage Gap is smaller, but it’s still a massive 16 points when combining the sexes, and 18 points among white women.

What about the effects of age on voting Republican?

Age

Once again, the Age Gap is minor compared to the Marriage Gap. Looking just at white women, we see that this sample’s 1,452 single white females (“SWF”) age 18-34 cast only 40.7 percent of their votes for Romney, while 60.2 percent of the 2,224 married white females (“MWF”) of the same young age voted Republican.

In other words, the Marriage Gap is approaching 20 points among younger white women. Granted, it declines slightly with age, but even among white women over 45, it’s still 15 points.

How about education?

White Women’s  By Age

 

So education level has some effect, but not too much. The Education Gap among young white women with and without college degrees is much smaller than the Marriage Gap. For instance, 18-34 year old SWFs with a college degree or higher voted 39 percent for Romney compared to 42 percent for those without a college diploma. In contrast, 58 percent of young white married female college grads voted for Romney, versus 62 percent of their counterparts without a diploma.

Among young white men, the education gap is mixed. Among 18-34 single men, Romney scores 7 points worse among college grads.

Yet, among married white males 18-34, those who are college graduates voted 65 percent for Romney versus only 43 percent among non-graduates.

Keep in mind, however, that the sample size of 18-34 white men who haven’t graduated from college but are married is very small (only 84). Of course, that isn’t just a technical problem with the polling, it’s a societal problem. In the 21st Century, not many young men without college degrees are getting married. As Charles Murray noted in Coming Apart,there’s increasingly a positive correlation between college and marriage.

The most plausible alternative explanation for the Marriage Gap isn’t age or education. It’s homeownership.

Unsurprisingly, the influence of marriage and homeownership on voting is hard to disentangle, because a couple’s decisions to wed and to buy a home are often linked.

We can use the Reuters data to show which appears to be a stronger influence on voting Republican (see below). Yet this remains a complicated question of causality because marriage and homeownership have become intermingled decisions for many Americans in recent decades.

A dozen years ago, Karl Rove and George W. Bush seized upon evidence from Margaret Thatcher’s Britain that selling privatized council flats to renters inclined the new homeowners to vote Tory.

They reasoned: Why couldn’t the Bush Administration similarly convert minorities and working class whites into Republicans by helping them get homes?

But Rove-Bush went for the easy fix of helping minorities and the white working class borrow more money instead of earn more money. This led to the 2002 White House Conference on Increasing Minority Homeowership, where Bush denounced traditional credit standards, such as down payment requirements, as standing in the doorway of racial equality.

One dramatic short-term effect of the subprime boom was to inflate Hispanic prosperity, as mortgage money flowed to fast-growing Hispanic regions. This artificial boom may account for Bush winning about 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004, up from 35 percent in 2000.

As Bush explained in his 2010 memoir Decision Points:

At the height of the housing boom, homeownership hit an all-time high of almost 70 percent. I had supported policies to expand homeownership, including down-payment assistance for low-income and first-time buyers. I was pleased to see the ownership society grow.

But unfortunately, Bush’s wink to the mortgage industry ignited the catastrophic Housing Bubble. As he went on to admit in his book, tersely but with unexpected decency:

This precarious structure was fated to collapse as soon as the underlying card—the nonstop growth of housing prices—was pulled out. That was clear in retrospect. But very few saw it at the time, including me.

In 2007-08, the hammer came down upon Hispanic mortgage brokers and construction workers, wiping out large chunks of the net worth of homeowners in heavily Latino areas, where foreclosures became endemic.

In 2008, the GOP nominated John McCain, sponsor of the 2006 amnesty bill with Ted Kennedy. According to the conventional wisdom that Hispanic voters only care about immigration, McCain should have been a great choice to please that bloc. Instead, he only earned 31 percent of the Latino vote.

But the Hispanic involvement in the Housing Bubble and Bust has seldom been noticed. It’s so much easier to have Latino professional ethnics explain what Latino voters want … which, in the professionals’ telling, always turns out to be: More Latinos!

So, which matters more: Rove-Bush’s Housing Gap or Sailer’s Marriage Gap?

The Reuters data suggests marriage is somewhat more influential than homeownership in driving white voters toward Romney. For example, Romney won 53 percent of married white renters versus 51 percent of single white homeowners.

Let’s consider in detail white women between 35 and 44. I choose those ages because virtually every woman, deep down, wants to be married and own a home at that point in her life.

Homeownership

Conclusion: within these apples-to-apples comparisons, we see that the Marriage Gap appears to be nearly twice as big as the Homeownership Gap.

So the Rove-Bush decision to strengthen the Republican brand by driving up the homeownership rate wasn’t ridiculous–but they should not have overlooked the more important variable: marriage.

Frank Sinatra sang about how love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage. A half-century ago, most Americans were married because you were supposed to be married to have sex and you pretty much had to be married to have children. And post-WWII America enjoyed broad prosperity, with extremely low housing and education costs.

But the sexual revolution removed the social pressures making marriage a necessity. As Murray’s Coming Apart documents, this sea change pioneered by ultra-elites turns out to have become most popular among the lower orders.

Today, buying a home and getting married still seem to be linked in the popular mind. In the upper half of society, couples who can’t afford a home will tend to defer marriage and children. But in the lower half, women postpone marriage, but not children. As depicted in the opening scene of Idiocracy, high home prices appear to intimidate the philoprogenitive spirits of the prudent while emboldening the imprudent.

Thus, in the housing bubble year of 2006, the total number of births to married white women dropped 0.4 percent from 2005, while births among unmarried Hispanic women rose an astonishing 9.6 percent.

Neither outcome is good for the Republican Party.

What can Republicans do to encourage marriage?

Murray says to speak up in favor of marriage.

More substantively, Benjamin Franklin pointed out in the 1750s that cheap land and expensive labor makes marriage and children more affordable. Franklin went on to note that the most obvious policy tool for pushing the supply and demand curves in the direction of affordable family formation is–immigration limitation.

The decline of marriage in America is obviously intertwined with the post-1965 immigration disaster. For one thing, Latinos have an illegitimacy rate of 53 percent. Moreover, the constant pounding down of wages and driving up of housing and education costs makes marriage and children less affordable for prudent Americans (i.e., natural Republicans).

At minimum, Republicans need to pay for honest research into the interactions of voting with marriage, fertility, homeownership, income, and cost of living. They can’t afford to fly blind anymore.

 Steve Sailer (email him) is movie critic for The American Conservative and writes regularly for Takimag. His websitewww.iSteve.blogspot.com features his daily blog. His book, AMERICA’S HALF-BLOOD PRINCE: BARACK OBAMA’S “STORY OF RACE AND INHERITANCE”, is available here and here (Kindle)