Survey shows marriage, fertility gap between political parties

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--If you live in a congressional district with a significant number of married couples and lots of children, your U.S. representative likely is Republican. But if most people in your district are single and there are few kids, your representative likely is a Democrat.

That's the conclusion of a survey of 2005 Census data by USA Today, which found a "marriage gap" and a "fertility gap" between Republican- and Democratic-held congressional districts. For instance:

-- Of the 50 congressional districts with the highest marriage rates, 49 are held by Republicans.

-- Of the 50 congressional districts with the lowest marriage rates, all are held by Democrats.

For instance, the congressional district of Rep. John Linder, R.-Ga., has a marriage rate of 66.1 percent, putting it first on the list. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R.-Ga., serves a district that has a 61.9 percent marriage rate, which puts it at No. 25. But Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings' district in Florida ranks No. 412 with a 43.5 percent marriage rate, and Democratic Rep. Chaka Fattah's Pennsylvania district is No. 435 with a 35.9 percent rate.

Linder told USA Today that "people get more conservative when they settle down."

The bad news for Republicans, though is that "most serious Democratic challenges this fall are in Republican-controlled House districts that have lower marriage rates," USA Today reported. Of the 38 GOP-held seats considered vulnerable, 27 have "fewer married people than found in the average GOP district," USA Today said.

Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco district ranks No. 423 on the list with a marriage rate of 40.9 percent and also has fewer children -- 87,727 -- than any other congressional district, USA Today said. She would become speaker if Democrats take control of the House of Representatives. By contrast, Republican Chris Cannon of Utah represents a district with 278,398 children, the most of any district, the newspaper said.

On average, Republican-held districts have 7,000 more children per district than do Democratic districts, USA Today said.

"Both sides are very pro-kids. They just express it in different ways," Arthur Brooks, a professor at Syracuse University, told USA Today. "Republicans are congenial to traditional families, which is clearly the best way for kids to grow up. But there are some kids who don't have that advantage, and Democrats are very concerned with helping those kids."

The Democratic base of "never married" people consists of "young people, those who marry late in life, single parents, gays, and heterosexuals who live together," USA Today said.

Among the other findings by USA Today:

-- "Democrats represent 59 districts in which less than half of adults are married. Republicans represent only two."

-- "Democrats represent 30 districts in which less than half of children live with married parents. Republicans represent none."

Although the data on congressional districts is new, the political divide between married and single people isn't. In 2004, President Bush defeated Democratic nominee John Kerry among married people, 57-42 percent. But Kerry won among single people, 58-40 percent.

"The biggest gaps in American politics are religion, race and marital status," Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg told USA Today.


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