Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Economy and health care are top concerns of unmarried women

A story published today by Cox News Service reports that unmarried women say presidential candidates George W. Bush and John Kerry are spending too much time talking about the war and keeping America safe and not enough on the economy and health care, according to a survey released Tuesday.

"There is a disconnect ... between the debates that are raised and what these women want to hear about," said Page Gardner, co-director of Women's Voices, Women Vote, a non-partisan group that sponsored the survey of unmarried women who said they were registered to vote. When questioned, 86 percent said they were "absolutely certain" to go to the polls on Nov. 2.

The organization seeks to increase the number of "women on their own" those who have never been married, are divorced, widowed or separated to register to vote and go to the polls on Election Day.

In the survey, the single women frequently cited the economy, jobs and health care as the issues most important to them in deciding who to support for president.

Although those surveyed acknowledged that candidates have talked some about these issues, about 75 percent said they are not hearing enough about raising the minimum wage, and 72 percent said there's not enough attention paid to discussing child care.

Roughly 40 percent of respondents said they are hearing too much about the war on terrorism

"Frankly, the war on terrorism is the last thing they want to hear about" compared to other issues, said Anna Greenberg, vice-president of Washington-based Greenberg, Quinlan Rosner Research, which conducted the survey for the group.

The survey was conducted Sept. 8-19 among 1,250 unmarried women aged 18 to 64 living in twelve states Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Washington. It has an error margin of plus or minus 3.5.

Gardner said that 22 million unmarried women did not vote in 2000, including 6 million who were registered to do so. When asked what would keep them from voting in this election, Gardner said 27 percent cited family or work obligations while 32 percent agreed with the survey statement that "politicians make a lot of promises, but no matter who is elected my life will not change."

Gardner is a veteran political organizer whose past clients have included the Democratic National Committee. She also previously worked in the 1992 Clinton presidential campaign and Kerry's first campaign for the U.S. Senate.

Luring female voters has become a key issue for the Bush and Kerry campaigns in recent weeks.

While women have supported Democrats in recent presidential races, a The New York Times/CBS News poll in mid-September showed their support for Kerry is slipping. About 48 percent of the women said they would vote for Bush while 43 percent said they supported Kerry. The gap widens among married women with 59 percent favoring Bush versus 32 percent for Kerry.

By a margin of 54-43 percent, women favored Democrat Al Gore over Bush in the 2000 election.

Campaigning in New Jersey and Pennsylvania on Tuesday, Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards was joined by Kristen Breitweiser of Middletown, N.J., whose husband died in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. She had been a driving force behind creation of the 9/11 commission to investigate the attacks.

Breitweiser's appearance underscores the Democratic effort to convince women that the Kerry-Edwards team would do a better job of protecting the nation.

Also on Tuesday, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, seeking to boost Kerry's support among women, told a women's group in Washington that the re-election of Bush would leave a stagnant economy.

Meanwhile, Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., said recently that she plans to campaign for the president in swing states, arguing that a Bush victory is critical for protecting families from terrorism.

The Women's Voices, Women Vote survey did not ask respondents whom they were likely to vote for in the upcoming election.

But respondents singled out Kerry as being more interested in domestic and economic issues, while Bush was viewed as being more interested in topics concerning security and "moral values."

"We know that we have to do more and we will," said Allison Dobson, a spokeswoman for the Kerry campaign. Dobson said the campaign has helped to recruit thousands of potential voters through the "Take Five" project, an initiative of the Democratic National Committee to boost the numbers of unmarried women voting.

The Bush campaign did not return phone calls seeking comment. The campaign recently launched the "W Stands for Women" effort to mobilize female voters to support the president.