Childfree Americans lean heavily toward Obama and Democrats

couple in Obama T-shirts

(Photo by Steve Rhodes)

Joel Kotkin has an interesting post about the political leanings of childfree, childless, and single Americans. Short answer: Democratic.

[There’s] a remarkable correlation between the states and regions with the highest proportion of childless women under 45 — the best indicator of offspring-free households — and the propensity to vote Democratic. Overall, the most child-free regions were nearly 85% more likely to vote for Obama in 2008. And according to the most recent Gallup survey, they are similarly inclined to vote Democratic today.

At the top of the list, with 80% of its women under 45 without children, stands the rock-solid blue District of Columbia. Just behind that taxpayer-financed paradise the six states with the highest percentages — Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Hawaii, Vermont and California — also skew Democratic. In each of these states the percentage of childless women exceeds 55%.

The highest percentage of offspring-free women under 45 can be seen as well in such Democratic metropolitan areas as Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and New York. In each of these metropolitan areas, the percentage of childless women reached a minimum of 60%, well above the national average of 53%. In the urban cores of these regions, the percentage can approach Washington’s 80% figure. To a large extent, childlessness correlates with high density and a less affordable housing stock.

… Democrats have lost the support of married people overall since 2008, even while gaining among the unmarried. …

A growing part of the Democratic base — aside from ethnic minorities — consists of white, childless couples and, in particular, single women. … According to the pro-Democratic advocacy group Women’s Voices, Women Vote, almost two-thirds of this demographic group voted for John Kerry in 2004; in 2008 they went for Obama by nearly 70%. In 2010, a generally unfavorable political climate for Democrats, unmarried women helped power Democratic victories, particularly in Colorado and California, in the latter case against female Republican candidates.

… In the past 30 years the percentage of women aged 40 to 44 who have never had children nearly doubled to 19%. At the same time singletons of both sexes are on the rise, numbering over 31 million strong today, up from 27 million in 2000, a growth rate nearly double that of the overall population.

The increasing role of the childless may already be shifting the Democratic Party toward the kind of post-familialistic secularism generally associated with Europe or parts of East Asia. This could partly explain why the Obama Administration has been so willing to challenge the Catholic Church — a traditional home to many working class Democrats — on the issue of offering contraception to its employees. Simply put, in Democratic calculations, secular singletons may now outweigh religious Catholic Democrats.

The importance of singlehood and childlessness is amplified by location. The greatest bastions of non-families are found in the centers of the country’s media, cultural and intellectual life. Single households already constitute a majority in Manhattan and Washington, and they are heading in that direction in Denver, Seattle and San Francisco.

Kotkin goes on to question whether Democrats might be shooting themselves in the foot long-term because the Republicans are out-breeding them. I hear this a lot, but I just can’t get too worked up about it. First of all, considering our massive and urgent environmental problems, fewer people just can’t be a bad thing. Secondly, to share a meaningless anecdote, my conservative parents had four kids, and all of us turned out to be liberals. Let the right do the reproducing; we on the left can do the converting.

Kotkin also warns Democrats not to disdain parents and homemakers. I see no cause for worry there. Politicians of all stripes bow down in obeisance to the traditional family and entirely ignore childfree and single people. Can anyone cite a single example of a politician reaching out to the childfree? It’s about as likely as a politician making a public play for the atheist vote. No, we childfree folks vote Democratic because we’re sane — we believe everyone should have access to contraception, for one — not because Democratic politicians are doing anything whatsoever to court us at the expense of traditional families.


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