Stanley Greenberg and Celinda Lake

Excerpts from a Monitor breakfast on unmarried women voters.

Stanley Greenberg is chairman and chief executive officer of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. He founded the company in 1980 after teaching at Yale where he won a Guggenheim Fellowship. He has a BA from Miami University and a Phd from Harvard. He has been polling advisor to President Clinton, Tony Blair, and Nelson Mandella.

Celinda Lake is president of Lake Snell Perry, a national political research firm. She holds an undergraduate degree from Smith College, and a masters in political science and survey research from the University of Michigan. She has served as political director of the Women's Campaign Fund and Research Director at the Institute for Social Research in Ann Arbor.

On the potential impact of unmarried women voters:

(Greenberg) "What is striking about them is both their size and their lack of participation in the process.... There would have been 6 million new voters had they voted at the same rate as other voters.... Whether you increase their participation or simply deal with the numbers that are there, because of the demographic trends, the decline in marriage and the increase in (the number of the) unmarried, they are a quite powerful presence in the electorate. They are, for example, a larger share of the electorate than ... Latinos and Jewish voters combined."

On the nature of unmarried women voters:

(Greenberg) "They stand out above all for being economically marginal. As a result, this is a group of voters that is struggling economically, very much focused on their personal vulnerability.... They want change and are looking for responsive government, they are economically populist, they are progressive on a broad range of issues, and they are not tied to (a political) party."

On impact if unmarried women voted at the same rate as the rest of [voters in a given] state:

(Lake) "If you look at unmarried can see the tremendous numbers of these women in key states like 184,000 in Ohio, 125,000 in Michigan, 167,000 in Pennsylvania, 202,000 in Florida. These women exist in the battleground states."

On key concerns of unmarried women voters:

(Lake) "Low income ... is a very marked characteristic of this group. Not surprisingly then, when you look at their top concerns it is money, money, money. Concern about rising costs, concern about health care, concern about not being able to afford retirement, not being able to afford a college education. What is interesting is that these economic concerns start even younger among unmarried women. So among unmarried women they are starting to worry dramatically about retirement even at the age of 30 where among married women it usually tends to be 45 or older before you really start to worry about retirement."

On why unmarried women voters have not been targeted before:

(Lake) "There has been this sense that they don't all live in one neighborhood, you can't spot them right away. And I think politicians do tend to target themselves. And politicians also tend to target who is already voting."

(Greenberg) "They have become inescapable because of their growing size. ...My guess is that politicians have turned away from them - it is not so much taking care of ourselves but there are biases in our political system toward those who have power. These are powerless people...and we have also watched them pushed away from politics as politics does not address the issues that are central to them.

It is not symbolic kinds of changes in education but the lack of funding for it [that] means there is not really much happening in education that matters to them, the inability of the system to deal either with health care costs or universal coverage means that politics is not relevant. It is hard to respond to them - symbolic politics, I think, don't work. They do not have time for symbolic politics, they need real politics."

On how to appeal to unmarried women voters:

(Greenberg) "What drives them away is the remoteness of it, not listening to them, the powerless, a politics that (does not) address their problems. There needs to be a change in the topic of politics....there needs to be a politics that is relevant to them. They want a politics that deals with job security, that deals with education, and deals with health care costs."

(Lake) "If you think of the symbols and images of politics, the average politician out there is married, everybody in the family looks good, their lives are together, the two kids, the wife, the suit jacket over the shoulder. That's not the lives of these women. They are economically marginal, they are short of time, they are juggling, and hoping that one of the balls doesn't fall on their head at any given time.

The dialog and the symbols of politics don't address them.... We need a politics that reaches out to these women, that gets them information early .... a grass roots activity that doesn't come in two weeks before the election but actually starts early getting information and talking to them about the kind of issues they care about...."

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