New poll shows sizable 'marriage gap' in presidential race

WASHINGTON -- A new national poll shows President Obama benefiting from a significant disparity in candidate preference between married and single voters, and particularly among single women.

Overall, a Quinnipiac University poll of registered voters nationwide gives Obama a slim advantage — 46% to 43% — over Mitt Romney, just beyond the 1.9% margin of error.

Romney has the support of 51% of married voters compared with 38% for Obama. Unmarried voters side with Obama 54% to 34%.

In both categories Obama performs stronger among women than men, but the support of single women is particularly pronounced, by a 2-to-1 margin.

Quinnipiac's Peter Brown says the marriage gap could be attributed to the "different priorities and economic situations" of the two groups — married people tended to be older and more financially secure, and the sample was more Republican and white.

Also, "married voters are more likely to focus on the economy and healthcare, while single voters are more focused on issues such as gay rights and reproductive issues," Brown said.

In 2008 Obama won 56% of the vote of women with no children, compared with 43% who voted for John McCain, according to exit polls. Married mothers went for Obama, 51% to 47%, and all other women voted for the Democrat, 58% to 40%.

The Obama campaign is making a major play for the women's vote in key states such as Virginia, where a new campaign advertisement says "every woman who believes decisions about our bodies and our healthcare should be our own is troubled Mitt Romney supports overturning Roe vs. Wade." It also quotes Romney as saying he would cut off government funding to Planned Parenthood.

Overall, voters give Obama a negative rating for his handling of the economy — 55% disapprove, while just 40% approve. But Romney has just a 1-point advantage on the question of which candidate would do a better job on the economy.

Independent voters back Romney, 43% to 41%, while Republicans and Democrats each overwhelmingly support their respective candidate.

The survey of 2,722 registered voters was conducted July 1-8.

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