Women, which one to choose?
Want to know which candidate a woman is likely to support for president?
Look at her ring finger.
It may sound like the start of a joke, but the fact is most married women say they'll vote for US President Bush. By nearly 2-to-1, unmarried women say they support John Kerry.
The "marriage gap" - the difference in the vote between married and unmarried women - is an astonishing 38 percentage points, according to aggregated USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Polls. In contrast, the famous "gender gap," the difference in the vote between men and women, is just 11 points.
Ginny Savopoulos thinks she understands why the marriage gap exists.
"I registered Republican when I got married," she says as she walks through Rodney Square in the center of town here. That reflected her husband's political bent and her own sense of economic security. "After I was divorced, I was thinking more about, 'What's out there for me as a single woman?' "
During Bush's tenure, she struggled to find comparable work as a paralegal after she was laid off in 2002, and she's been dismayed by the costs of the Iraq war. She is still registered as a Republican, but she plans to vote for Kerry.
Analysts say the marriage gap is grounded in the different daily lives and cultural outlooks that many married and unmarried women have. Eighty-four years after women won the right to vote - the 19th Amendment took effect on this day in 1920 - that electoral divide is shaping important battlegrounds:
Republicans are targeting married women who work outside the home. They reliably vote but sometimes support Democrats, sometimes Republicans. Bush strategist Matthew Dowd calls them a key "persuadable group." Married women who don't work outside the home are solidly Republican - a "turnout group."
The president's support for more "flex-time" arrangements is designed to appeal to married women in the workplace, who often feel less pressure for extra pay than they do for extra time with their families. Laura Bush's speech at the Republican National Convention next Tuesday anchors an evening schedule aimed at female voters.
Democrats for the first time are making a concerted effort to persuade single women, most of whom work, to register and go to the polls. The overwhelming majority of never-married, divorced and widowed women already support Kerry, but they have been one of the demographic groups least likely to vote. In 2000, 22 million unmarried women who were eligible to vote didn't do so.