Whites are mostly negative about Obama, as consistently only around 30% approve of him (despite the Nobel Peace Prize). This 30% figure is far from the whole story. Wide differences in outlook on Obama within the White population are worth considering.
Modern polling allows us to open up a window onto, and look closely at, these differences. There are some surprises.
Using data collected by Reuters’ scientific polling in 2014 and 2015 (for a sample group of over 50,000 Whites), I present an in-depth analysis of White attitudes towards Obama:
1. Whites’ Views on Obama by Age Group, Sex, and Political Involvement
2. Whites’ Views on Obama by Religious Identification (and Race)
3. Whites’ Views on Obama by Sexual Orientation
4. Whites’ Views on Obama by Income
5. Whites’ Views on Obama by Marital Status and Children [This Post]
6. Whites’ Views on Obama by Education Attained
In this post:
Marital Status and Children, Heterosexuals Over Age 30
Summary of Key Points
Marriage really affects White women’s politics. White men’s, not as much.
Having children really affects White women’s politics. White men’s, not at all.
Analysis / Commentary
Note: To limit interference, I look at only straight Whites over age 30 at the time of polling (i.e., born before 1985). “Non traditional sexual identities” are excluded because they will skew the “never married” and “no children” categories (we already know that LGBTs are much more pro-Obama than heterosexuals). Under-30s are excluded because many/most who are not yet married are not so by choice but because “it’s not time yet” and will be married by their 30s.
Preliminary Comment: I think this may be the most interesting of all the tables I’ve produced from this polling data. In the first post, I commented that there was apparently “no difference” in White men and White women’s stated views on Obama. Overall, that’s true. Actually, though, there are great differences, revealed by careful analysis:
The Institution of Marriage Affects Women a Lot
Overall, there is no difference in views on Obama between White women and White men born before 1985; “Widest” and “Core” percentages here are both well within each other’s margin of error.
The overall parity conceals something deeper. Comparing each marital status, men vs. women, we will see how much the institution of marriage really affects women: Having it makes women more anti-Obama (maybe even more anti-Obama than their husbands); lacking it makes them much more pro-Obama than other women or men.
Married Couples (Both Partners Will Dislike Obama About Equally)
There is no real gender gap among married Whites. The weighted scores for married Whites over 30 are exactly equal, at 2.6 (which is just below the overall rate for White Methodists [2.7] for comparison. See Views on Obama by Religion). Actually, married heterosexual White women born before 1985 have a core approval of Obama of only 21.6% (+/-0.8%), four points lower than the same rate for men, so by this measure married White men are a little more pro-Obama than married White women.
Leaving the territory of the married, we start to see gender gaps.
The Divorce Gap
Look at the difference in Divorced figures by sex. It seems that after White men get divorced, their politics remains the same, but after White women get divorced, their politics moves left (here, six points towards “pro-Obama”). This is curious but probably explainable.
Weighted Approval of Obama (0-10 scale, 10 is “strongly approve”)
2.6: Straight White men over 30, married
2.6: Straight White men over 30, divorced
2.6: Straight White women over 30, married
3.1: Straight White women over 30, divorced
The “Never Married”
As expected, Whites over 30 who never married are much more pro-Obama than their married peers.
Never Married White Women Support Obama Much More
Never married White women are much more pro-Obama than their married peers, and even noticeably more pro-Obama relative to never-married men. Whereas never-married White men’s Obama approval is only 3-4 points above the White male average, never-married White women’s approval rating of Obama jumps 9-11 points over the female average approval (depending on which metric we wish to use, “widest” or “core”).
Viewed another way, “White Women, Over Age 30, Never Married” overall give Obama a weighted approval of 3.9, which is a lot closer to Jews’ [4.6] than the White Protestants’ [2.3].
Why is this?
Living With Partner
Among those living together but not married, we find no gender gap. Interestingly, there is no difference in views on Obama between “Living With Partner” and “Never Married” for men, but among women we find a big gap with “Living With Partner” much more conservative. This likely just reinforces how substantial the “Never Married Gap” for women actually is.
Note: The data here is limited to heterosexuals, age 30-49
Effect of Having Children on White Men’s Views of Obama
No effect. Having children does not apparently alter White men’s views of Obama. “Child at Home” and “No Children” figures are well within the margins of error for men.
Effect of Having Children on White Women
Strong Effect. White women’s stated views on Obama are substantially affected by whether they had children. The women in question are in their prime child-raising years (30s-40s). Approval of Obama drops 5-7 points among White women with children as compared to White women without children.
Is this cause or effect? Is there something about having a child that specifically changes women’s political views?
Comment: We can reasonably speculate that women are more influenced by children than men. Once children come, a lot changes and certain selfish inclinations are tossed by the wayside; women become more serious, more focused on realities, more cognizant of the future. Many White mothers will see that Obama’s vision for the future of the USA — an aggressively (“vibrant”) vast Nonwhite majority from coast to coast — means a substantially inferior future for their White sons and daughters. This is a view many White women will have rejected for being un-PC in younger years, but after having children, more may be willing to embrace it if couched in the acceptable Republican talking points, of course.
Unmarried with Children
If having children makes a woman more conservative, where does marriage (or non-marriage) fit in? The specifics are not including in the original table here, but here is a supplement:
We see that the only group of White women with children that can be called relatively pro-Obama here is the “Single, Never Married (with Children)” group, as might be expected. Why is this? Although having children tends to make White woman more anti-Obama, “all bets are off” if you are on government assistance, as some or many of these will Never Married women will be. Pro-Obama / left-wing feeling will actually go way up in this case.
To keep this in perspective: Single, Never Married White Mothers’ weighted approval of Obama, 3.6, while a lot higher than the other groups of White mothers, is still much, much lower than the rate of any Nonwhite group, cut by just about any subdemographic.
Importance of Marriage
I want to return to marriage. How important is the “institution of marriage” towards White politics (or, by proxy here, towards opposing Obama)? It does seem that it makes women more politically more conservative, but even this is a correlation and causation problem. However, one thing we can see here is that among White women with children, “Living With Partner” seems indistinguishable, in political views, from “Married”. In other words, stable relationships matter, not the institution of marriage in and of itself. (That said, of course a social sanction encouraging long-term stable partnerships, like marriage, would be valuable.)
One final thought. Someone once said that marriage developed much more for the benefit of women than of men. Thinking about this data along those lines, this view of marriage seems compelling.
[End of Analysis / Commentary]
This is the combined data for all Reuters polls, conducted in the six months up to January 20th, 2015, which yields a huge sample size of 50,540 White Americans. (In this post, an additional analysis between the dates January 20th 2013 and January20th, 2015 was done to get a bigger sample size for gays and lesbians.) Reuters polled all races, but its online database allows us to look at only data for Whites if we so wish. This large sample group yields a small margin of error for most demographic subsets. Two other benefits of this data are: (1) Lots of demographic breakdowns are available, and (2) a continuum of possible responses is provided rather than a clumsy “approve / disapprove” binary. The choices are: “Strongly Disapprove” — “Somewhat Disapprove” — “Lean Disapprove” — “Mixed Feelings” — “Lean Approve” — “Somewhat Approve” — “Strongly Approve”. This allows for more precise results. All this can be recreated at polling.reuters.com.
The three calculations on the right side of each chart are to help make sense of the data:
- “Core Approval” is the sum of a demographic’s “Somewhat Approve”, “Strongly Approve” percentages. So if Group A has a “Somewhat Approve” share of 15% and a “Strongly Approve” share of 10%, the “Core Approval” will be 25%.
- “Widest Approval” is Core Approval with “Lean Approve” and half of “Mixed Feelings” also added. Taking half probably as good a way as any to deal with the people with mixed feelings.
- Weighted Approval. This is a weighting of each demographic’s scores according to the scores on the charts. To account for intensity of feeling, “Strongly Disapprove” is weighted at -0.5 and “Strongly Approve” is weighted at 10.5.
Other demographic breakdowns by: