From NBC's Mark Murray
Much has been made about how an increase in turnout among African Americans or young voters could end up benefiting Obama in the fall. But a new poll conducted by the Democratic firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, and commissioned for Women's Voices, Women Vote Action Fund, shows that it's also important not to overlook the role that unmarried women might play in the general election.
In the poll -- which was conducted among 1,004 registered unmarried women from June 19-24 in key battleground states -- Obama holds a 32-point lead over McCain (61%-29%) among this demographic. By comparison, another recent Greenberg/Democracy Corps survey has him leading McCain among married by just one point (49%-48%).
VIDEO: NBC's Kelly O'Donnell is on the campaign trail with John McCain, as the Republican presidential candidate focuses on women issues and the economy.
This marital gap isn't new. In 2004, according to exit polls, unmarried women voted for John Kerry by a 62%-37% margin, and they backed Democratic candidates in the 2006 midterms, 65%-32%. On the other hand, Kerry lost married women by 11 points to Bush in 2004, and the married vote was essentially split between Democrats and Republicans in the midterms.
Perhaps most interesting are the number of unmarried women in this country. Per Census data, there are 53 million unmarried women in this country -- which is almost equal to the number of married women, both representing 26% of the voting-age population. In fact, Page Gardner, president of Women's Voices, Women Vote Action Fund, says that unmarried women represent the nation's fastest-growing demographic. "It is huge and it's growing," she told First Read. "This is an extremely important demographic."
One of the poll's conclusions is that increasing the size of the unmarried women's vote -- from 22% of all voters in 2004 to 24% in 2008 -- could result in at least a two-point increase in Obama's total, "a huge gain in presidential politics."
But turning out unmarried women to vote hasn't always been easy. In 2004, according to the polling analysis, 41% of unmarried women DIDN'T vote in 2004, versus 29% of married women who didn't.