July 30th, 2010

Schlafly and those unmarried women voting for Obama

Phyllis Schlafly has made the news with the following remarks, which have earned that common appellation, “controversial:”

Conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly took aim at “unmarried women” at a recent fundraiser and in an interview with TPM, saying that they overwhelmingly support President Obama and are all on welfare. Democrats aim to exploit the comments to pressure the more than 60 Republican candidates who have earned Schlafly’s endorsement.

“Unmarried women, 70% of unmarried women, voted for Obama, and this is because when you kick your husband out, you’ve got to have big brother government to be your provider,” said Schlafly, president of Eagle Forum and infamous for her opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment.

Democrats can aim to exploit her comments all they want; it’s what they do. Personally, I don’t think that every candidate endorsed by Schlafly is deemed to have endorsed everything she might say (the same, of course, is true for endorsers and endorsees on the left). But hey, that’s just me.

What interests me more is what Schlafly actually said, plus the entire demographic “unmarried women,” which seems absurd to me. It’s a term used by various research groups in studies, but it describes a conglomeration of women so disparate as to be virtually meaningless as a unit.

Think about it—“unmarried women” consists of women who have never been married (mostly younger ones, who will probably become married in the not-too-distant future), divorced women (many of whom will remarry, sometimes briefly and sometimes long-term), women with children and without, and widows (mostly older, most of whom will never remarry). What do these women have in common, besides being women, and besides being at least temporarily single?

As for unmarried women voting for Obama—whatever their reasons—some of this can be explained by the fact that they are predominantly young. Take a look at the chart found here:


You can see that nearly a third of “unmarried women” are under thirty, 22% are over 65, and the rest are spread out among other age groups. What’s more, if you look at the “race” part of the chart, you’ll note that almost 30% of the unmarried women are either African-American or Hispanic. We already know that the young voted very strongly for Obama, and that women were more likely to vote for him than men, and that African-Americans were almost 100% behind him and Hispanics strongly so. Therefore I tend to think it’s not straining credulity to believe that the bulk (although not all) of the unmarried female vote for Obama can be accounted for by a combination of these three factors: age, gender, and race.

One other thing—do divorced unmarried women generally fall under the rubric of Schlafly’s “kicking their husbands out?” There is some basis to that claim, at least according to a related statistic, which of the spouses initiates legal action. Data indicates that in about 2/3 of cases, divorce is initiated by the wife, at least in the legal sense, and at least in marriages with children.

Of course, this tells us nothing about why the wife decides to call it quits. In a survey of divorces in midlife and beyond, for example, the reasons stated were as follows:

According to an AARP survey of older divorced people, 66 percent of women reported that they asked for the divorce, compared to 41 percent of men. However, the same survey reported that most women in their fifties or older said the top killers of their marriages were physical or emotional abuse, infidelity, and drug or alcohol abuse—and they put almost all of the blame on their ex-husbands. On the flip side, most fifty-plus men said they simply “fell out of love” or had “different values or lifestyles.”

How representative is this of the bulk of divorces? With no-fault divorce widespread, it’s hard to say; divorce decrees don’t ordinarily discuss marital fault anymore, and we must rely on self-report surveys, which can be self-serving and unreliable.

Who initiates a divorce can actually be a rather poor indicator of what led to the decision to terminate a marriage, although it may be the best indicator we have. Just contemplate the fact that it was Tiger Woods’s wife Elin who initiated their divorce proceedings and you’ll see what I mean. Divorce is such a complex he said/she said process that in general it’s probably best to assume these things are usually unknowable, even (or perhaps especially) to the main protagonists in the sad drama, the warring couple.

[NOTE: If anyone wants to wade through the sludge of this very lengthy report that attempts to shed light on the issue of what motivates divorce initiations by women, they are welcome to do so.]

32 Responses to “Schlafly and those unmarried women voting for Obama”

  1. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Schlafly saying that unmarried women “overwhelmingly support President Obama and are all on welfare” is an example of mixing a truth (unmarried women overwhelmingly support President Obama) with an untruth (they’re all on welfare).

    It damages her credibility and obfuscates the issues.

  2. Tom Says:

    I’d be real careful there, GB. You are quoting the journalist, not Schlafly; and the same called her “infamous”. The actual words she is quoted as saying about unmarried women do pan out.
    It is the journalist who is “damaging her credibility”. Nope, no bias there, just move on GB.

  3. FuzzyFace Says:

    I have to believe that she misspoke – it is not “unmarried women” who fit her description, but unmarried mothers.” Of course, that doesn’t reflect well on her for getting something so basic wrong, if she did.

    But that phenomenon, of women giving birth without ever having married, and then seeking governmental assistance is not something Obama created. Daniel Patrick Moynihan noted it decades ago, and was shouted down for daring to mention it.

  4. Jimbo Says:

    A family friend divorced her husband because he decided after 20 years and three daughters that he wanted to become a woman. The husband stated h is intentions to end the marriage and use his portion of the assets to pay for a sex change. The wife filed first to protect her family as she was able to gain custody and stay in the house until the youngest left home. Technically, she initiated the divorce but she would have preferred to stay married. She also didn’t vote for Obama, although I think her ex-husband did. If the ex husband gets a sex change, does that count as a single woman voting for Obama??

  5. neo-neocon Says:

    Jimbo: not unless he/she votes for Obama again in 2012.

  6. Geoffrey Britain Says:


    Thanks for the correction. I did a bit of research and located the actual audio from the fundraiser at http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/07/dems-call-on-gopers-to-renounce-phyllis-schlafly-over-remarks-about-unmarried-women-audio.php .

    The journalist misquoted and mischaracterized Schlafly’s remarks. She never said nor even intimated that all unmarried women are on welfare.

    One more instance of the liberal media misrepresenting a conservative’s remarks. I should have and do know better.

    The level of intellectual dishonesty, rationalized by the end justifying the means is appalling.

    In the future, I’ll make sure to verify anything negative reported about a conservative before commenting.

  7. Jed Skillman Says:

    Early in your essay you used grazed the point: “demographic ‘unmarried women'”.

    Politics is rarely played conducted “E Pluribis Unum”. Niche marketing identifies age groups, sex, income levels, preferred past time, etc. “Unmarried Women” are just another group of targeted voters.

    Whatever one feels about unmarried women, to a greater or lesser degree they have things in common. Some may be single as a result of death of the spouse, some by divorce, some by multiple divorce, and some may be single by choice. But they have some things in common that leaves them vulnerable to clever marketing and political insinuation. Not all unmarried women, understand, but enough to make them worth while courting for their votes.

  8. neo-neocon Says:

    Geoffrey Britain: but Schlafly’s remarks did contain some assumptions that are necessary in order to make sense of them. She appears to assume that a very significant portion of the unmarried women voting for Obama are mothers receiving AFDC payments. But if you look at the chart here, you’ll see that 74% of unmarried women with children (6% of the voting population) voted for Obama, whereas 69% of unmarried women without children (15% of the voting population) voted for Obama. Not such a huge difference—and we can conclude therefore that only a small amount of the variation between the two groups might possibly be explained by welfare dependence.

  9. neo-neocon Says:

    Jed Skillman: I agree that the category “unmarried women” is studied and then used by politicians for various manipulative purposes. My point is that although some portions of the group do have something in common, many (such as as-yet-unmarried younger women and elderly widows) have almost nothing in common, except that (a) they are human beings living in America; (b) they don’t have access to two incomes (although some of the widows do in a sense, if they’ve inherited money from the deceased spouse, and some of the younger women do if they have support from their family of origin); and (c) they are women.

  10. gs Says:

    Like Geoffrey Britain, I tracked down the Schlafly audio. Like Neo, I wasn’t convinced by what Schlafly said.

    Per Neo, wanting the government to support illegitimate children is only one possible reason for how unmarried women voted. Note that unmarried men also voted Obama though not as strongly as unmarried women. It’s plausible to me that unmarried people would want a stronger so-called safety net than unmarried people do.

    (And IMO the young unmarrieds are damaging their long-term welfare by looking to the government, but as a Vietnam era boomer I am hardly qualified to lecture later generations about responsible behavior.)

  11. Tom Says:

    Hey, this seems to be a great to-do about not very much. I don’t care if Phyllis exxagerated a factoid.
    My focus remains on that monstrously bloated ego, that outrageous liar who claims to be our Prez, ruining us as we discuss Schlafly.
    Eyes on the ball, people!

  12. Artfldgr Says:

    Now if we can only apply that level of inspection to all sides, we might start cookin’

    though i can only say that she had a certain group in mind that was obvious… whether or not she stated it in the proper vernacular that couldn’t be picked at, well i don’t even know if there is one.

    ultimately those that take over states use the most gullible and manipulable in the population while marginalizing the opposite. so they always go for the young who lack experience, those groups that exhibit lower performance measures (which we are not allowed to acknowledge, women (the most important group), race hucksters of all kinds, and the motley crew of fringes

    of course not all in those groups fit the purpose, but that’s where your big numbers are (don’t blame me, blame the guys that validated it taking over huge countries).

    the argument she puts forth is not very new or original. its been said for long time about replacing one fix with another. you lose religion, you tend to worship the state. a woman loses her mate she tends to gravitate to an available provider (if needing resources). if a greater provider presents itself, like government, more will move to that.

    anyone want to guess whether it was the more moral and upright refusers in history that survived and had more kids or would the more fluid in options tend to be the winner in this race?

    nit picking as to the actual make up of the point is not really addressing the point she is making, nor refuting it either.

    stores for women are set up like little jungle berry bush areas. little trails, bushes with goodies. they even want their husbands standing there to look out for predators (he serves no other purpose a lot of the time), especially when she is in a shop where she doesn’t share knowledge with her girlfriends.

    our more ancient selves shows itself all the time if you pay attention. those tied to sex, and survival tend to have more influence.

    if you think living free is oppressive wait till you get a kick out of where the women Schlafly is battling have brought us (with no retreat possible). to the exact point where they said they were taking us for over 100 years, and have been taking us there, and now we are here. they did such a good job, i dont know why they dont want the credit.

    the broken family model tends to imbue the victims with a mind more receptive to the lefts ideas that they have no control over their lives, and that as part of a large force in control of others, they can feel safe. the lost fathers effect of war had to be duplicated as it was key facet to the kinds of revolutions they desired as it maximized this dependent mind more than what we used to call normal families.

    ah… but i read too many of their papers…
    that’s old stuff. it could never bring us to where their opposition said it would. right?

  13. Tom Says:

    Art: Good stuff. Vielen Dank.

  14. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    Schlafly does get misrepresented and unfairly treated, but she did make an irresponsible statement. Most of us here, if called on to make some comment in a speech where we knew we would be quoted, about the possible relation between unmarried mothers and voting for Obama, would take care to do some homework and be quite precise in exactly what we said. Phyllis didn’t. There is some truth value to what she says, but it’s so sweeping as to be easily shot down.

    A more precise statement might not rally the crowd so much, and some people like making waves to get their point across more emphatically, but it’s still irresponsible.

  15. Thomas Says:

    “Of course, this tells us nothing about why the wife decides to call it quits.”

    Anecdotal yes, but of people I know… progressive women are the ones who have divorced. They all spouted a bunch of lefty clichés during the process.

    More conservative types have negative stigmas about divorce (vs. seeing it as ‘empowering’) so they try harder to fix the problems.

  16. Thomas Says:

    Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    “about the possible relation between unmarried mothers and voting for Obama, would take care to do some homework and be quite precise in exactly what we said.”


  17. Gray Says:

    What interests me more is what Schlafly actually said, plus the entire demographic “unmarried women,” which seems absurd to me.

    Well, they can’t very well say:

    “Crazy Cat Ladies and Soon-to-be Crazy Cat Ladies”, can they?

    Perhaps if they stuck with:

    “Females who use public transportation at least once a week or Subaru Owners.”

    That would have teased out the correct demographic.

  18. Gray Says:

    “Of course, this tells us nothing about why the wife decides to call it quits.”

    No, but based on current statistics, 2/3rds of the time:

    “He didn’t meet my needs.”

    would be a correct guess.

  19. Gray Says:

    Just contemplate the fact that it was Tiger Woods’s wife Elin who initiated their divorce proceedings and you’ll see what I mean.

    Well, she certainly had more to gain:

    She’ll have some hunky Italian model to play daddy to Tiger’s kids and 300 million bucks.

  20. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    Hey. Guys? Stop guessing about why women divorce men. Either pony up data or hold your peace.

    I deal with the horror stories on both sides as a part of my living, and see examples of all the guess4es, but no pattern. Add in the staff who get divorced – where we generally only get one side of it – and the same result obtains. No pattern so overwhelming that it deserves mention as the general reason women divorce.

  21. Tom Says:

    People divorce because they can do so, easily. Pretty soon we’ll have a divorce option to go along with motor-voter. There is no way to divorce the liberalization of divorce from the other liberalizing trends of the past 50 yrs (pun-HaHa).
    I recall a tidbit of happiness research reported a few yrs ago, finding that the men and women close to divorce who didn’t, were substantially happier than those who did, 2 years later.

  22. Michael Says:

    The singular of data is not anecdote. Anecdotal evidence about divorce is made all the more unreliable by what remains of politeness. No reason is given, but we don’t say, “He had a zipper problem, hunh?” He probably did, but we do not know. “She lost most of her sex drive at menopause, and you didn’t,” is also not in Miss Manners list of acceptable conversational gambits. I don’t fall for the “Roissy” guy’s explanation of male/female relationships, as a rule, but my own mother had a difficulty in continuing to love a very good man who adored her, but who became less exciting when he started working two jobs to pay for her spending habit. We ought to encourage young women, mostly, to let love come and go, and not to look for a leading man every year.

    It may be enough, and is very likely all that we can do anyway, to tell younger people that divorce rarely increases happiness, and, considered independently, we usually do not like the sort of people for whom it does.

    It would also be very helpful if we boomers, who have so prized honesty, admitted as much of our own failings as we can do, without defaming the other party. This can be very difficult, but there is so much left out in the usual, “We just grew apart” or even in the vengeful stuff that ex-spice like to say of their opposite number that young folk know very little about what to expect as life goes on. Neither men nor women, for example, know as much as they ought about changes in relative sexual appetite with child birth, menopause, and other life events. Why else would there be such a burgeoning market in aphrodisiacs, as the boomers age?

    Since the Rousseavian influence on the social and behavioral sciences is so great, the idea continues to be promoted that men and women go at it like rabbits, into their eighties, unless some nasty minion of bourgeois social enforcement gets in the way. (No, we don’t.) Those of us in our fifties and sixties have made a lot of mistakes. It would be a grand thing if we could, in all humility, allow younger folk to benefit from the lessons these mistakes have taught us.

  23. neo-neocon Says:

    Tom: it is not just because divorce is easier. Divorce is easier because society no longer wishes to stigmatize it. And then as it becomes easier, it becomes less and less stigmatized.

    But comparing the happiness of people who think seriously about divorce and don’t go through with it with the happiness of people who actually go through with it is not a valid comparison. They are likely to represent somewhat different groups in other ways as well.

  24. Tom Says:

    Neo: I didn’t do the research; I merely cite the finding, my take-home message. I do not recall how, and how many, other possible variables were controlled, though I believe they may have been age-matched, finance-matched. Race-matched? don’t recall.

    The divorce-stigma pairing is chicken v. egg coming first. I do not think that adds anything, at least for me. And the more I think about it, the less impressed I am by your reasoning: “society no longer wishes to stigmatize it”. A society wishes??? Nope, legislators do, and enact laws all the time that polls show are opposed by large segments of “society”; large majorities, even.

    Easier divorce is one step in social dumbing down, a la Moynihan. It’s the good old unintended consequences, from which we should try to learn.

  25. br549 Says:

    As Geoffrey Britain has recognized, and so gracefully replied to, left leaning MSM journ-o-lists can’t be trusted to present a factual, unbiased article.

  26. neo-neocon Says:

    Tom: obviously, society is composed of people. And starting in the 60s, there was a sea-change in the way a lot of people saw (and wanted to see) divorce. The change in attitude came first, the legal changes came slightly later. I was there and I recall it.

  27. Thomas Says:

    Tom Says:

    “I recall a tidbit of happiness research reported a few yrs ago, finding that the men and women close to divorce who didn’t, were substantially happier than those who did, 2 years later.”

    That also lines up very well with what I’ve seen in my own life (everyone had kids btw, I can see a childless couple split being less traumatic… and as far as childless also tends to correlate with being a couple less time, that also plays into it..).

  28. Ilíon Says:

    The Other McCain: When Phyllis Schlafly Speaks the Truth, Democrats Call It ‘Extremism’ has statistics, too.

  29. Tatyana Says:

    I find it strange that among all the comments nobody disputed the notion itself, i.e. when a husband is out of household the wife has no other recourse of getting income to raise a child.

    Do all ex-husbands become immediately ex-fathers? I would think the majority of people find dead-beat dads detestable, so if we are talking society’s attitude and moral pressure, such man would get rather negative attitude towards him from his surrounding.
    Besides, there are laws (and army of lawyers to enforce them…) and whole institution of family courts and custody battles to ensure the children will be cared for, at least in monetary sense.

    Also, why there is an immediate and automatic assumption that a woman with child can not earn her upkeep herself? Nobody is surprised that majority of families have two parents working outside of home – why the assumption that a woman stops working after the divorce? True, her income is most likely diminished significantly – as is true of her ex-husband – but it is not that she’s completely impoverished and is forced to move to a shelter. Not in the majority of divorces, at least.

    Why everybody find the presented conclusion to separation of spouses (“you’ve got to have big brother government to be your provider”) the only logical one?
    It might be true for a certain group, but by no means it is the only possible scenario.

  30. Tatyana Says:

    tidbit of happiness research reported a few yrs ago, finding that the men and women close to divorce who didn’t, were substantially happier than those who did, 2 years later.

    Tom, that’s quite a vague description to make the conclusion that divorce makes people less happy.

    People could be less happy due to number of reasons. True, some group would prefer to get back to their ex-spouse, but I think it will be rather small [Yes, I have no statistics to back me up. So are you].

    The could be yet another interpretation of this statement: people would be happier 2 years after their divorce if they’d be married…but to a person different from their ex-spouses! Being divorced doesn’t necessarily mean a person rejects whole institute of marriage. (S)He only rejected that particular partner to be married to.

    Other reasons for unhappiness could be lack of money, loneliness, losing familiar circle of friends, diminished amount of regular sex, etc. Each of these reasons could be cured by means other than new marriage or going back to the old one.

    So, it is incorrect to draw the conclusion you seem to be doing.

  31. Artfldgr Says:

    No Country for Burly Men
    How feminist groups skewed the Obama stimulus plan towards women’s jobs.
    by Christina Hoff Sommers
    06/29/2009, Volume 014, Issue 39

    40% of all births are to single mothers (the majority of which do not fit the idea that the women who discuss politics hold – IE, their beliefs do not match the facts, and so they spend a lot of time twisting facts to seem to follow belief rather than adapt belief to the facts).

    “The state is responsible for the upbringing of children” “The woman who takes up the struggle for the liberation of the working class must learn to understand that there is no more room for the old proprietary attitude which says: “These are my children, I owe them all my maternal solicitude and affection; those are your children, they are no concern of mine and I don’t care if they go hungry and cold – I have no time for other children.” The worker-mother must learn not to differentiate between yours and mine; she must remember that there are only our children, the children of Russia’s communist workers.” -Alexandra Kollontai -Komunistka, No. 2, 1920, and in English in The Worker, 1920

    What Marxist theory describes as the bourgeois \ proletariat relationship feminist call “The Patriarchy”.

    can anyone name the equivalent in the race model?

    It was claimed that if the capitalist relationship between men and women could be destroyed women would be able to select men by who they are as a person rather than be attracted to a male because he was of high status and resourcefully successful etc.

    Unfortunately Kollontai did not understand hypergamous matting behavior of females i.e. the tendency to look for tall, strong, intelligent, ambitious, good looking, high status, resourcefully successful males..

    typical of progressives/communists/socialists… they think that the system stays the same while they make adjustments. that is, their adjustments have no effect so the outcome seems logical… ONLY sans a reaction and change in action.

    so freeing men of their provider role, would not provide women the kind of men they wanted.

    here is the kicker. if you wanted to rule or lord over, you can use this from above it to decimate women and men of certain groups… the women and men in it will think it valid, and they will work like busy termites denying and working collusively (like journolist) to remove MERIT from selection process. (ergo, that wonderful affirmative action politico in australia that left the job at 5pm to go have dinner while people were burning to death. or that poor court clerk who ended up dead as she had to uncuff a 6 time murderer and so was defenseless from protecting herself the second she did so. etc)

    and actually things are turning crappy not becasue of the men, but because women are not willing to support men and be providers the way men are willing for women. that is, they are not willing to work and let the men stay home and do what they did (why not if its such a hard job and the guys had it easier?)

    “Now imagine another situation. A respected woman of bourgeois society – a social figure, a research student, a doctor, or a writer, it’s all the same – becomes friendly with her footman, and to complete the scandal marries him. How does bourgeois society react to the behaviour of the hitherto “respected” woman? They cover her with “scorn”, of course! And remember, it’s so much the worse for her if her husband, the footman, is good-looking or possesses other “physical qualities”. “It’s obvious what she’s fallen for”, will be the sneer of the hypocritical bourgeoisie.”

    she is supposed to become man, as man is supposed to become women. but the problem is not the ability of the men to be lazy enough to sit around home… the problem is that the women arent willing to pay for them to do that… 🙂

    so the women are not willing to support and keep who they love…. so rather than be a Utopian plan, in the hands of OTHER people its a social bomb. a neurosis that can be visited upon populations that are educated so as to break down and dismantle their social advantage… and their threat to disruption of the economics of the aristocracy…

    They want to promote less capable over more capable, and so women not believing they are less capable at the extremes side with the unequal treatment before the law to put them in place using social actions rather than merit and earning it.

    having end justifies the means, means no honor, and without honor, they they, like George Washington will not step down for the better performer (even if its another woman).

    the real world doesn’t care about our ego, false self confidence, et… it only cares about merit in terms of outcome… and it takes a complicated view of that.

    women make up 60% of degree professionals now… and they don’t invent as much, they don’t spend as much time away from social pursuits to invent, they give up on their careers as they have other options, and more.

    you can twist this around, but all you will end up doing is trying to say women and men are not diferent… which is making the fenminist case.

    and if that’s so, you should have seen no decline over the years… and if it was better for us, you would have seen an increase over the years.

    but we havent if you look at the key numbers

    matriarchies as the last days of rome were, are stagnant and dont last long… they are either attacked or they are out bred and just fade away.

    thats the 100% reality of it, just as the outcome of marxism is 100%.

    Praxagora was very wrong

    funny how we forget the past, and so rationalize why what we want SHOULD be… then go out and do it. the sad thing is that if it doesn’t fit empirical reality, its outcome is poor… if it does, its outcome is maximally rich…

    we are about to be turned into feminist perfection…
    a police state that they believe caters to them

  32. Baklava Says:


    Tammy Bruce on the Schlafly comments.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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