Will Gore's shift to the right on morality alienate liberal voters?
A story published today in the
Washington Post poses the question as to whether Al Gore's shift to the right, including
his choice of a conservative Democrat will hurt him by alienating many traditionally-loyal
Democrats, including single people, gays, agnostics, and others who don't fit the
traditional family stereotype.
The story says that Gore has sent a strong message that he intends
to challenge George W. Bush for Republican-leaning "moral values" voters through
his selection of Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.), his support for blocking a fundraiser
at the Playboy Mansion and his efforts to separate himself from President Clinton.
This strategy involves risks, according to partisans on both sides.
On the most straightforward level, the tilt of the Gore-Lieberman
campaign toward the moral right threatens to shift the public debate onto terrain
inherently unfavorable to Democrats by asking voters to decide which party is better
equipped to handle issues of morality, a question on which voters tend to prefer the GOP.
"They are swimming upstream," said Matthew Dowd, polling
director for the Bush campaign, noting that among those voters who place a top priority on
"the moral crisis" or on "restoring moral values," Bush has as much as
a 40 percentage-point lead.
A second, more subtle, problem is the threat that a hard-line moral
stance poses to the carefully developed Democratic support built up over three decades
among millions of voters who fall outside the scope of the traditional nuclear
family--single mothers, gays, the divorced. Many of these voters stress tolerance over
Changing attitudes about sex, marriage, family, divorce,
homosexuality and gender, as the women's rights movement and sexual revolution of the
1960s have become institutionalized in society, have been crucial to the success of
Democrats in this once highly troublesome arena of politics.
The story points out that voters who are single or divorced are far
more likely to be Democrats than those who are married, and those who rarely go to church
are more likely to be
Democrats than regular churchgoers.
Gore is caught between a Democratic constituency inclined toward
liberal stands on sexual issues and the need to separate himself from the Clinton sex
The conflicting pressures on Gore resulted in the spectacle of
Democratic Party officials, acting with the full approval of the Gore campaign,
successfully barring Rep. Loretta Sanchez (Calif.), who is Hispanic, from holding a
fundraiser at the Playboy Mansion.
The party's core base of support among social liberals has, in turn,
been shaken by Gore's selection of Lieberman, a politician known for his harsh moral
criticism of Clinton and for his repeated denunciation of sex and violence in the
"The Democrats are in as much danger as the Republicans were in
saying 'we are not mean anymore' of alienating Christian conservatives and hard-liners. By
the same token, Democrats run the risk of alienating real liberals," said Andrew
Kohut, of the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, adding his belief that the losses are not
likely to be high.
This view is by no means unanimous. "This isn't the Democratic
Party I grew up with," said John Burton, president of the California state Senate,
responding to the Playboy controversy. "It smacks more of fascism than the Democratic
Party. What are they going to do next, burn books?"
Pollster Stan Greenberg, an adviser to the Gore campaign and key
strategist in Clinton's 1992 bid, said the Playboy Mansion controversy and the tensions
over Lieberman's harsh critique of the entertainment industry are a part of a long-term
political and social accommodation to the changes in the workplace, the role of women and
in personal behavior wrought by a movement begun in the 1960s.
"If you look at the period from the '60s, the Democrats came
down on side of individual liberty and in that earlier period the party was associated
with the excesses, and the Republicans were able to ride their opposition to the sexual
revolution to a national majority," Greenberg said.
In more recent years, he said, "the public has made an
accommodation to the sexual revolution," and "the Democrats are much closer to
where the public is."
While Republicans have the edge on moral values, Greenberg said the
Gore-Lieberman ticket is "playing on Democratic turf because we will advance both
tolerance and openness, and a commitment to family. Republican turf is an emphasis on
family and morality with an emphasis on opportunity. We are doing both."
Tom W. Smith, director of the National Opinion Research Center at
the University of Chicago, described a host of various demographic trends, including a
decline in the percentage of adults who are married from just less than 75 percent in 1972
to 56 percent in 1998; a quadrupling in the percentage of children living with single
parents from less than 5 percent to nearly 20 percent; and the halving of once
"traditional" families with a working father and stay-at-home mother from 60
percent to 27 percent of married couples with children.
The changes in family structure have been accompanied by a major
shift in public attitudes and in private behavior, according to Smith. Premarital sex has
become commonplace; extramarital births have grown from one in 20 in 1960 to one in three
now; the percentage of people saying sex between an unmarried adult man and woman is
"always wrong" has dropped to an all-time low of 24 percent, and the percent
disapproving of homosexuality has declined steadily.
In this changing environment, the Democratic Party has taken the
side of the sexual revolution and the GOP the side of the counterrevolution in both
"image and reality," Smith said.
"If you look at the actual attitudes of people, there is a
decided difference. Republicans are more conservative about the family, less in favor of
premarital sex, less in favor of [reproductive] choice. Their platforms reflect these
differences and so do their organized constituencies: the religious right for Republicans,
feminists for the Democrats," Smith said.
Friday, August 18, 2000
Home buying by single women on the rise
A story published today in the
Philadelphia Inquirer reports that more unmarried women bought homes in 1999 than in any
A record 6.5 million new and existing houses are sold in the United
States last year, according to a survey by the National Association of Realtors.
While most home buyers were married couples, single-person
households - especially single females - are a growing part of the equation.
The Realtors surveyed 20,000 people nationwide who either
bought or sold a house in 1999, according to Kevin A. Roth, the principal author of the
Married buyers still predominate. Only 6 percent of home buyers were
unmarried couples last year.
The percentage of unmarried single female home buyers has been
increasing over the decade, while the percentage of single male buyers has been dropping.
According to the Realtors' survey, the typical buyer took eight
weeks to search for a house last year and looked at 10 houses before buying.
Marital status gap widens in
A survey released today by Voter.com, in thw wake of the Democratic
Convention, shows that the so-called "marital status gap" is widening in the
race for president.
Even before most voters across the nation had seen his acceptance
speech, Al Gore had whittled the 18-point lead George W. Bush held at the end of the GOP
convention to just 5 points, according to a Voter.com Battleground 2000 poll released
The two-day tracking poll, based on surveys of 1,000 likely voters
over the past two nights, was completed at 9 p.m. Thursday -- before voters in eastern and
central states had seen Gores speech. The bipartisan poll was conducted by
Democratic pollster Celinda Lake of Lake, Snell, Perry & Associates, and Republican
pollster Ed Goeas of the Tarrance Group.
When asked to select their current choice among the four leading
presidential candidates, 45 percent of those polled said they support Bush, 40 percent
backed Gore, 3 percent favored Green Party nominee Ralph Nader and 1 percent supported
Reform Party nominee Pat Buchanan. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3
Other key poll findings:
Gores support has dwindled among conservative Democrats; 73
percent said they plan to support Gore, compared with 84 percent in polls taken earlier
The marriage gap continues to be a problem for Gore. Among married
women, Bush is ahead of Gore by a 2 to 1 margin, while Gore has a 13-point lead among
When asked to choose between Bush and Gore, white, working married
mothers favored Bush 65 percent to Gore's 27 percent Gore. When asked to choose
between the four leading candidates, Bush leads Gore 62 percent to 26 percent.
Monday, August 14, 2000
A story published today in USA Today reports that over a five-year period, getting married or staying married reduces
symptoms of depression far more than being single or divorced, according
to sociologist Patrick McKenry of Ohio State University
But just living with a sweetheart won't provide the same
emotional windfall, he told the American Sociological Association meeting Sunday in
Washington, D.C. ''Cohabiting offers no improvement in mental health over being single.''
McKenry reported on a nationally representative survey of
5,991 people ages 19 to 75. They were asked about symptoms of depression, along with other
lifestyle questions, and were followed up five years later.
A remarriage improves mental
health, but not as much as the first marriage, McKenry says.
Unhappily married partners get less of a mental health
boost than the happily wed, but they still fare better, overall, than the single or
McKenry took into account mental health at the start of the
study, as well as age, education, number of children in the household and other factors
known to affect mental health. Still, marriage alone had a significant effect.
Los Angeles psychologist Constance Ahrons, author of The
Good Divorce, says that people overall are more mentally healthy in marriage than out of it.
But ''five years is not a very long time out of a
marriage,'' and many of those divorcing probably were still in painful transitions.
''A lot of things change after five years,'' Ahrons says,
''and we know many people rebound.''
Also, such a large study can't capture specific groups very
well, Ahrons says, and so may mislead in its generality.
For example, some excellent, long-term research suggests
that middle-aged, college-educated women often flourish after divorce, although the same
isn't true for men.
Few states fund group homes for
unwed teen moms
A story published today by the Associated Press reports that Massachusetts runs the nation's most comprehensive network of group homes for low-income
teen-age mothers and their children. But despite bipartisan praise from welfare reformers in Washington, these
so-called second-chance homes have yet to catch on in most states.
Pilot programs have started in some states; others offer
seed money aimed at raising private funds for the homes. But no state provides anywhere
near the $5.3 million a year that Massachusetts spends for a 120-bed network of 21 group
homes scattered from Cape Cod to the western city of Pittsfield.
``I don't care how much it costs. We owe it to them,'' says
Lisa Kelly, who helped launch Massachusetts' Teen Living Program in 1995 and is now a
consultant to the state Department of Social Services.
"These are girls who have
been abused and neglected, and in many states they've just been written off because
they've gotten pregnant,'' Kelly says. ``It's astonishing that states aren't anteing up
and covering their care.''
Federal welfare reform legislation of 1996 targeted unwed
teen-age mothers, eliminating benefits
unless they lived with at least one parent. An exception was made for girls with no safe
or suitable family home; they could live in a group home staffed by adults teaching
parenting skills, helping arrange child care, and ensuring that the young mothers pursued
The Massachusetts program costs more than $40,000 per bed
per year, far more than what a teen-age mom with one or two children would receive on
welfare. But the program's advocates say it is a ``pay now or pay more later'' situation,
since children of teen-agers face more social peril than those with older moms.
President Clinton requested
funding for second-chance homes in his 2001 budget proposal, and Republican presidential
nominee George W. Bush has promoted the concept in Texas.
The Texas program, launched last year at four sites with a
$1.6 million budget, ranks second only to Massachusetts in funding. It offers lodging, if
needed, but focuses mostly on nonresidential services such parenting classes and career
New Mexico, Rhode Island and Nevada also have statewide
programs. About a dozen other states have local programs or are considering statewide
The national teen pregnancy rate has been dropping in
recent years, but there are still roughly 200,000 girls under 18 giving birth each year,
most of them unmarried. Many of these young mothers live with their parents; others lack
Supportive homes for unwed mothers aren't a new concept;
for decades, charity-run maternity homes have provided a refuge for young women about to
bear children society labeled illegitimate.
With the social stigma of single parenthood lessened, and new funds available to
states because of welfare cutbacks, advocacy groups believe state-supported group homes
are the best bet for the future.