New Jersey’s Republican U.S. Senate candidate says he is lagging behind in the polls because of the rise in the number of single women, who he charges “are automatically Democratic” because they rely on social programs like food stamps.
Jeff Bell, who is running against incumbent Democratic Sen. Cory Booker, faces a 20-point deficit among women in public opinion polls—the sort of gap that is common in many national races.
Bell told the Ashbury Park Press last week that the gender gap has nothing to do with his socially conservative positions, saying that unmarried mothers “need benefits to survive.”
I’ve done a lot of thinking about this and looked at a lot of different polls, I think it has more to do with the rise in single women. Single mothers particularly are automatically Democratic because of the benefits. They need benefits to survive, and so that kind of weds them to the Democratic Party. But single women who have never married and don’t have children are also that way. If you take married women, they aren’t that different from married men. So it’s really a problem with the decline in marriage rates. The Democrats do benefit from that.
Bell’s comments are similar to those made by Mitt Romney, who, during his 2012 campaign for president, said that 47 percent of Americans will always vote Democrat because they are dependent on the government.
The so-called marriage gap—the difference in voting patterns of married and unmarried women—is a documented phenomenon: single women tend to vote Democratic at a higher rate than their married counterparts. But evidence shows that single women, like other voters, favor candidates that reflect their interests and beliefs, not that these women “automatically” vote a certain way because they are dependent on government benefits.
Bell’s website says he supports bans on abortion after 20 weeks and the proposed ban on so-called sex-selective abortion, along with the fetal “personhood” bill introduced by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate.
Bell has also told the Star-Ledger that he would advocate for a ban on abortion even in the case of rape or incest.
In a book written by Bell, The Case for Polarized Politics, he writes that access to contraception in the 1960s led to an increase in surgical abortions because it “eroded [women’s] social and psychological resistance to premarital sex,” according to the Star-Ledger.
Though Bell didn’t say whether he would try to bolster his appeal to single women, GOP efforts to attract women have been largely tone-deaf.
A group funded by the right-wing billionaire Koch brothers last year released ads featuring someone in an Uncle Sam costume performing a gynecological exam. And this year, the GOP released ads that spoof the TLC show Say Yes to the Dress, in which women treat each dress like it were a real-life political candidate.
A panel at a recent conservative convention said Republicans could attract more support from women voters if the party could get more men involved, and a GOP women’s outreach group vowed to avoid talk of social issues and instead focus on issues like the use of sunscreen.