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ANTHONY BROOKS, host:

Every election season there's talk of a new segment of the electorate for politicians to court. Well, move over Christian conservatives, soccer moms and college students, it's time for single people to flex their political muscles. That's according to a new report from Lake Research Partners. Joining me now is Page Gardner. She's the president of Women's Voices, Women Vote, the group that commissioned the report. And Page Gardner, welcome.

Ms. PAGE GARDNER (President, Women's Voices, Women Vote): Thank you very much and thanks for having me.

BROOKS: In this report it says, the greatest political divide in America is now the marriage gap. What do you mean by that?

Ms. GARDNER: It is the difference between how married and unmarried people live, work, and participate in our electoral politics.

BROOKS: And the marriage gap refers to a big group of unmarried people. What do we know about that group? How big is it?

Ms. GARDNER: A majority of households now in this country are now headed by an unmarried person. Unmarried women, in fact, are the fastest growing large demographic we have in this country.

BROOKS: And the report talks about the unmarried are America's biggest untapped political resource. Does that mean they're for the most part disengaged with the political process and that politicians would do well to focus their policies and win them over?

Ms. GARDNER: Marriage, frankly, is one of the top four determinants of whether one will register or vote. In 2004, 20 million unmarried women did not vote; and in 2006, 30 million unmarried women did not vote who could have. Those are huge numbers.

BROOKS: I want to play some tape from a couple of different single women we talked to in Los Angeles and just get you to respond to them. First up is Felicia Davis(ph). She's 24. She's black. She works for a movie studio. And here's what's on her mind.

Ms. FELICIA DAVIS: The main issue, I guess, is my concern in politics right now is the war. Bush being in office has scared me away from voting Republican. My father is a Republican, and he does so because of the tax bracket, because you make more money and you get taxed heavier. But as far as, you know, moral issues of Republicans and how they handle things, I much more agree with (unintelligible).

BROOKS: What does Felicia Davis tell us?

Ms. GARDNER: Unmarried women in this country were the first and most passionate against the war in Iraq. They were the first to want to have the troops come home. And they are the first insisting that this war is a huge mistake not only in terms of the lives lost, but in terms of the priorities of the country that spends its money overseas in a mistaken effort, they think, as opposed to dealing with some of the issues that we need to deal with right at home.

BROOKS: Okay. Let's listen to someone else. Next up is Sandy Katz(ph). She's white, 55-years-old, and works as a paralegal.

Ms. SANDY KATZ: My most important issue would be health care. The fact that I do have health issues, it would frighten me terribly if I were not employed and did not have an employer's health insurance. I would be frightened to death.

BROOKS: So health care is very much on Sandy Katz's mind as it is on the minds of many Americans.

Ms. GARDNER: Health issues and health care are of enormous concern to women on their own. They are twice as likely as married women not to have health insurance. One in five do not have any kind of health insurance in this country. And two in five rely on some sort of public health care, for example, Medicaid, Medicare, through the Army, or through government employment.

BROOKS: But is this group really that unified, because I'd imagine, for example, a single mother from Detroit might not have as much in common with an older office worker from Miami, Florida. Is there something that actually unifies them?

Ms. GARDNER: There is an enormous amount of homogeneity in terms of their issue concerns and in terms of how they feel about being on their own. They're very proud of making it on their own. And yet they know they're one job loss, one health care crisis from not being able to take care of themselves or their children.

BROOKS: Are any of the presidential candidates that we're hearing from these days specifically speaking to these issues that reach out to these folks as one block, or should they?

Ms. GARDNER: Well, you have a number of candidates who are speaking to them. The discussion around pay equity is enormously important to all of them. And many of the candidates are speaking about pay equity. That is the second most important issue to them after Iraq. So wages and salaries that keep up with rising prices. Health care is enormously important, as we just heard. And many of the candidates are proffering their own views on how to deal with the health care crisis in this country. So those two issues are of primary concern, and many of the candidates are addressing them.

BROOKS: Well, Page Gardner, thanks very much for coming in today and discussing this.

Ms. GARDNER: Thank you.

BROOKS: Page Gardner is head of Women's Voices, Women Vote.

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