"When women succeed, America succeeds."
That was the message last week from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who, with her House colleagues, is promoting legislation to achieve pay equity for women, make child care more affordable and encourage a better work-family balance for women.
And now a new national poll by the Women's Voices Women Vote Action Fund shows overwhelming support for measures to aid the nation's working women.
- 90 percent of American voters favor policies that would help women get equal pay for equal work, and that would raise wages for women and families
- 87 percent favor expanding access to scholarships so women can train for the jobs of the future
- 75 percent support expanding access to affordable childcare for working moms
- 72 percent support expanding paid family, maternity, and sick leave for working families
The poll results confirm that the vast majority of voters -- men and women -- support common-sense approaches to raise pay, benefits and opportunities for working women. Now that women are the primary breadwinners in a record 40 percent of U.S. households, helping working women is ultimately about helping American families.
Unmarried women, a crucial voting bloc in the 2012 election, are even more enthusiastic about the plans. According to the poll, 95 percent of unmarried women favor policies that would help women get equal pay for equal work, and that would raise wages for women and families. A remarkable 91 percent favor expanding access to scholarships, and 89 percent support expanding access to affordable childcare.
But not all the poll results were so encouraging. Voter turnout typically dips during mid-term elections, and unmarried women made clear in the poll that it will hard to sustain their interest in 2014. Only 82 percent of unmarried women described themselves as "likely voters" in 2014. That could result in dropoff similar to what we experienced in the 2010 midterms, when the turnout of unmarried women dropped from 60 percent to just 38 percent.
And that turnout could be key. Unmarried women, people of color and young people -- a group called the Rising American Electorate -- proved last November that demographic changes in the electoral landscape are permanent and decisive. Unmarried women made up 24 percent of the overall electorate in 2012, and two-thirds of them cast their ballots for President Obama. Marital status is a key predictor of whether and how one votes. The Rising American Electorate made up almost half of the electorate (48 percent in 2012) and is one of the fastest growing demographic groups in America.
America is changing. It is more diverse and unmarried. Politicians who take for granted the support of unmarried women and the Rising American Electorate do so at their own peril. Today, the issues that matter to the Rising American Electorate are the issues that truly move the needle in American politics.
Page Gardner is the Founder and President of the Women's Voices Women Vote Action Fund.