Marriage Gap Bigger Than Gender Gap

Press Release from the Annenberg Public Policy Center
July 2, 2004



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.

While 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.

But 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.

For 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.

Adam 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 and age.“

About 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 disapprove.”

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.

The 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.

The 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.

There 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 conditions.

Only 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 restrictions.

At 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.

But 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 direction.

Other 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 schools.

That National Annenberg Election Survey, the largest academic election poll, is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania ( 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
 click here

To view related data from the Pew Research Center
click here


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