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U.S. News Archive
August 14 - August 20, 2000





This page contains news for the period August 14, 2000 through August 20, 2000.


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Sunday, August 20, 2000

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 judgmental politics.

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 scandal.

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 entertainment industry.

"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 previous year.

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 report.

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 presidential race

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 today.

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 Gore’s 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 percent.

Other key poll findings:

Gore’s support has dwindled among conservative Democrats; 73 percent said they plan to support Gore, compared with 84 percent in polls taken earlier this week.

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 single voters.

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

New poll finds most voters support personal retirement accounts for social security

A story released today over U.S. Newswire reports that a new national poll shows widespread support for using a portion of workers payroll tax dollars to create personal retirement accounts as part of Social Security reform.

The extensive nationwide poll of 600 registered voters conducted for the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) by Public Opinion Strategies, found that while Social Security is universally popular, Americans recognize that it faces long-term problems and needs reform. The findings were made public in a report released today by the NCPA. According to the report:

-- Social Security is by far one of the government's most popular programs, with 60 percent having a favorable opinion of it.

-- Still, a majority - 51 percent - say that Social Security needs "radical" (20 percent) or "major" (31 percent) change to ensure the program's fiscal health.

"This poll shows that Americans don't view personal accounts that they own and control as a risky alternative," said Matt Moore, policy analyst at the NCPA and the co-author of the report. "Rather, an overwhelming majority of all Americans are receptive to this type of reform."

The report notes that support for personal accounts is strong and widespread.

-- A large 80 percent of voters favor a reform plan that allows them to invest a portion of their payroll taxes in a personal retirement account they can own and control.

-- If given a choice, 73 percent (60 percent strongly) would be willing to switch to the new system.

-- Personal accounts are popular with all racial groups, with 81 percent of whites, 77 percent of African Americans and 74 percent of other minorities favoring them.

-- Marital status also does not significantly diminish support levels, as 71 percent of voters who are divorced, separated or widowed favor personal accounts, and 81 percent of people who are married or single favor them.

Study says marriage is a good tonic for mental health

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 in Columbus.

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 divorced.

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 their education.

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 counseling.

New Mexico, Rhode Island and Nevada also have statewide programs. About a dozen other states have local programs or are considering statewide initiatives.

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 that option.

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.


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