The marriage gap is bigger than the gender gap on a wide
range of political issues, from opinions of George W. Bush
and John Kerry to party allegiance or a constitutional ban
on same-sex marriage, the University of Pennsylvania’s
National Annenberg Election Survey shows.
the gender gap, or the political differences between men and
women, has intrigued politicians and women’s organizations
since the early 1980s, the greater differences between
married and single people, though first noted at about the
same time, have received less attention.
this survey shows that the differences between married men
and married women are either slight or statistically
insignificant. In contrast, people who do not live with a
spouse are considerably more liberal and critical of Bush
than are married Americans.
example, polling of 1,641 adults conducted from June 16
through June 30 showed that 54 percent of respondents either
married or living as married approved of how President Bush
was handling his job, while 41 percent disapproved. Among
those never married, widowed, divorced or separated, 42
percent approved and 56 percent disapproved. The differences
between men and women were much smaller. Men divided evenly,
with 48 percent approving and 48 percent disapproving;
unusually, women were slightly positive, with 51 percent
approving and 46 percent disapproving.
Fifty-five percent of married women approved, as did 53
percent of married men. Just 43 percent of single women and
41 percent of single men did so.
Similarly, 32 percent of married people called themselves
Republicans and 31 percent said they were Democrats, while
among single people, 19 percent were Republicans and 38
percent Democrats. The gender differences were smaller; 26
percent of men were Republicans and 30 percent were
Democrats while 28 percent of women were Republicans and 37
percent were Democrats.
Clymer, political director of the survey, said “Single
respondents may be more negative toward Bush and the
Republicans, when compared to married respondents, because
they had lower incomes and were much younger, at a time when
young people are least supportive of Bush.” Men and women,
he said, show much smaller differences in household income
half of the single respondents have family incomes under
$35,000 per year, compared to about a fourth of married
respondents,” he said. “And 52 percent of everybody in that
under $35,000 income group disapproves of Bush’s handling of
his job as president, while 43 percent approves. Among those
with higher incomes, 54 percent approve and 45 percent
Thirty-eight percent the single respondents were 18 to 29,
compared to just 11 percent of the married respondents. In
that age group, where voting rates are lower than they are
among older Americans, 50 percent disapproved of Bush’s
handling of the presidency, while 46 percent approved.
margin of sampling error for the entire sample was plus or
minus two percentage points. For men, women and married
people it was plus or minus three points, and for single
people it was plus or minus four points.
marriage gap differences were bigger than the gender gap on
questions ranging from approval of Bush’s handling of the
economy, the war on terrorism, the war in Iraq. They were
also bigger on the issues of a constitutional ban on
same-sex marriage and a ban on all abortions.
were also significant differences on personal economic
status and whether people knew someone who had lost a job in
the last six months. Fifty percent of married people, but
just 34 percent of single people, said their own economic
condition was excellent or good. And 39 percent of married
respondents, but 59 percent of singles, said they or someone
they knew had lost his or her job because of economic
one question in the Annenberg survey stood out as showing
the gender gap bigger than the marriage gap. Asked whether
the government should do more about controlling the kinds of
guns people can buy, 59 percent of married people and 61
percent of single people said it should. But only 51 percent
of men, compared to 69 percent of women, favored more gun
the same time, there were a number of questions on which
there was no meaningful difference between the sizes of the
gender gaps and marriage gaps. For example, when asked if
the country was going in the right direction or off on the
wrong track, 52 percent of married people said wrong track
while 39 percent said right direction. Single people were
even gloomier, with 63 percent saying wrong track and 30
percent saying right direction.
that gap was about the same as the difference between men
and women on the question. Fifty percent of men said “wrong
track,” and 43 percent said “right direction.” Among women,
61 percent said wrong track and 28 percent said right
questions where the two gaps were of about equal sizes were
whether the war in Iraq had been worth it and whether it had
increased the risk of terrorism against the United States,
the condition of the national economy, the desirability of
private school vouchers and greater federal aid to public
That National Annenberg Election Survey, the largest
academic election poll, is a project of the Annenberg Public
Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania (www.AnnenbergPublicPolicyCenter.org).
It has been tracking the presidential campaign since October
7, and interviewing will continue until after Election Day.
Dr. Kathleen Hall Jamieson is the director of the survey.
Ken Winneg is the managing director of the survey. Adam
Clymer is the political director of the survey.
To view detailed results of this survey
To view related data from the Pew Research