Posted Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2008, at 10:50 AM
Political polling parses data according to broad demographic categories—by sex, age, education, race, religion. The polls have been run this way for years, which makes it easy to compare results from election to election. It doesn't matter that these demographic descriptions are only a faint approximation of how people define their lives and politics. This is the tool political reporters have, and so they use it. (What's the line about having a hammer makes everything look like nails?)
Marketing people tell me they use demographic data only when they can't get the good stuff—the polling that much more precisely identifies how people will buy (or vote) based on more detailed lifestyle preferences. But when they can't get the lifestyle data, then sometimes demographic data provides an approximation of what's really happening.
So it is with women, who over the past generation have become more likely to vote Democratic. The numbers go up and down with the dynamics of a particular campaign, but the trend is there. To stop with gender is to stop too soon.
Paul Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson wrote
in 2000 based on polling they had conducted over the years. They identified a cultural shift taking place, a change in values. A growing number of people were more concerned with protecting the environment than with expanding the economy. Cultural creatives sought deep relationships and were rolling their own spiritual lives rather than turning religion over to the establishment church.
Other researchers were finding the same trends. Daniel Yankelovich in the marketing world saw the ascendance of values over class, education, or work.
wrote about a "culture shift" from his perch at the University of Michigan. Ruy Teixeira and John Judis predicted a new Democratic majority coming out of the culture being created in the fast-growing tech cities.
What Ray and Anderson realized is that this culture shift was taking place faster among women than men. More women were interested in alternative religions, holistic medicines, individual rights, and environmental protection than men. When the two researchers counted up the core group of "cultural creatives," they found that two-thirds were women.
More single women are Democrats because more single women are cultural creatives. "It's not 'the demographics,' " Ray and Anderson wrote. Sure, it's simple to separate people by gender, education, income, and the color of their collars, they wrote, but "those conventional categories show only a thin slice of people's lives." To understand why people act and vote the way they do, you had to find their values.
So, where are all the good men? Demographically, of course, there are just as many men as there have ever been. But when Ray and Anderson examine values, not demography, they find a serious shortage of culturally creative men. "The bad news (for women) is that there aren't enough men to go around," Ray and Anderson write. There are lots of women looking for a new kind of relationship and too many men dropping out of college, watching mixed-martial-arts matches on television, and voting Republican.