Sunday, September 19, 2004

Single-minded focus: unmarried nonvoters

A story published today in the Asbury park Press says that unmarried women are the target demographic in the presidential campaign. Or they should be, according to the nonpartisan organization Women's Voices, Women Vote.

About 22 million unmarried women did not cast ballots in the 2000 presidential election. And 16 million of them didn't even bother registering to vote.

"They're the largest demographic group on the sidelines of our democracy," said WVWV co-founder Page Gardner.

And as the nation observes Unmarried and Single Americans Week today through Saturday, advocacy groups like California-based Unmarried America hope that issues important to singles -- both women and men -- will remain in the public eye long after Election Day.

"The status quo is not very favorable to single people," said Tom Coleman, executive director of Unmarried America, formerly known as the American Association of Single People.

Single women polled

When Gardner realized the extent of voter apathy among unmarried women, WVWV commissioned the polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research of Washington to find out "who these women were, what they cared about and why they did and did not vote."

The study revealed that non-voting single women spanned all age groups and socioeconomic situations, including those who are divorced and widowed, and those with and without children. WVWV's goal is to register and mobilize them as a powerful voting bloc.

"This demographic is growing. We better pay attention to who they are and what they want," Gardner said. "We cannot ignore them. We need to bring them into the process."

One of those women is Izabella Treitli of Ocean Grove. She didn't vote in 2000, mostly because she was preoccupied with her mother's battle with cancer. But Treitli, 32, said she is determined to get to the polls in November because this year's election "is a cliffhanger."

A USA Today poll conducted earlier this month shows 49 percent of registered voters favor President Bush and 48 percent back Democratic challenger Sen. John F. Kerry.