Unmarried voters propel President Obama to slim lead over Mitt Romney, poll shows

Two new national polls show President Obama leading Republican challenger Mitt Romney, with one of the surveys offering an explanation: the marriage gap.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll gives Obama the edge over Romney, 49 percent to 43 percent, while a Quinnipiac University poll puts the president’s advantage at 46 percent to 43 percent.

The Quinnipiac survey shows married voters prefer Romney, 51 percent to 38 percent. But unmarried voters favor the president by 20 points, and single women support Obama 2-1 over Romney.

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“Although much has been made about the gender gap and how President Barack Obama’s lead among women fuels his campaign, the marriage gap is actually larger and more telling,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

“The marriage gap may be related to the different priorities and economic situations of married and single people,” Brown added in a statement accompanying the survey results. “Married people are more likely to be older, more financially secure and more socially conservative than unmarried voters. The married column includes more Republicans and more white voters. Married voters are more likely to focus on the economy and health care, while single voters are more focused on issues such as gay rights and reproductive issues.”

The 6-point Obama lead shown by the Reuters/Ipsos poll is the widest among recent surveys. Tuesday’s Gallup Daily Tracking poll put Obama and Romney in a tie, as did an ABC News/Washington Post poll published the same day.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll attributed Obama’s growing lead—which was a single point when the poll was conducted in June—to a small increase in voter optimism. Fifty-eight percent of respondents said the country is on the wrong track, down from 63 percent a month ago.

“Last month was a particularly bad time for Obama but now the race seems to have returned to its normal position, which has Obama up a few points,” Ipsos Public Affairs Research Director Chris Jackson said.

“It’s not like consumer confidence has turned a big corner,” Jackson added, “but people feel a little better about where they are and where they are going. Nothing bad has happened recently, and when nothing really bad happens people start feeling more optimistic.”

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted between July 5 and 9 and included 1,154 people. It had a margin of error of 3 percentage points. Quinnipiac conducted its poll of 2,722 registered voters between July 1 and 8. The survey’s margin of error was 1.9 percentage points.