Election Day is still months away, but the hunt for votes is on, and one demographic that is emerging as an important ‘swing’ group is single, working moms. These are the ‘everyday heroines’ who balance the family budget, nurture their children, hold down a job, and now a growing number are adding college courses to their already jammed schedules. Why? Because in today’s economy, many of these women find themselves stuck in low-paying, dead-end jobs that offer little opportunity for advancement. Getting a college degree, or earning certification in a field such as healthcare or technology can make the difference between just getting by, and earning a competitive salary in a growth industry. So more and more single moms are heading back to school...and these moms vote.
“Unmarried women with children are probably the most progressive voters in the country,” says the president of the Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund, “and so their values are progressive and they will have an increasing influence on the kinds of candidates that get elected. Given their numbers among unmarried women, we are very much focused on single moms.”
Recently this group got a high profile shout-out from POTUS himself. As the graduation speaker at the Barnard College, President Obama invoked his own upbringing, telling the crowd that he “grew up as the son of a single mom,” and reminding the assembled graduates at the elite women’s college that his mother “...struggled to put herself through school and make ends meet.”
At another commencement address at a community college in Iowa, Second Lady Jill Biden used the occasion to honor the struggles and sacrifices made by single working mothers, citing one graduate in particular. Biden lauded Donna Larkin, a single mom who lost her job after 19 years, and went on to earn an Associate of Applied Science in collision repair and refinishing, and is now enrolled in a degree program in automotive repair technology.
“Donna has never stopped learning and is well on her way toward reaching the ultimate goal of owning and running her own shop,” Biden said. “Donna, congratulations, I’m so proud of you.”
The Obama and Biden remarks are a stark contrast to conservatives like former senator and presidential wannabe,, who has been openly critical of single parent households. According to Santorum, one of the leading causes of poverty in the United States is the breakdown of the traditional mom-and-dad family. This is not a message that has gained traction with struggling single moms.
According to Karen Nussbaum, a long-time union organizer and head of Working America, U.S. working women “are under tremendous economic strain. They are responsible for the health care, the education, their own retirement, all of the responsibilities in the family — which is true for women overall, but on steroids for single mothers.”
According to Nussbaum, voter turnout in this group will hinge on whether single parents feel candidates can truly understand the challenges of raising a family, earning a living, and in many cases, adding college loans to the mix.
“I am definitely, definitely, definitely going to vote, and I am trying to encourage others to vote,” says a 34 year old single mom with two teenaged girls. After years of waitressing, she recently graduated from college and is sending out resumes. “has a little more in common with me than and his wife, because Barack Obama was raised by a single mother.”
As the campaign continues, it will be interesting to see if Team Romney is listening.