Since 2003, the Associated Press, ABC News, CBS News, CNN, Fox News and NBC News have cooperated in the form of the National Election Pool (NEP) to produce one set of nationwide exit poll data. First, representatives from each news organizations form a committee that comes up with the specific question for that cycle’s poll. Then the NEP contracts with Edison Research to conduct the actual polling on Election Day.
In 2008, as they had done in previous cycles, the NEP asked respondents “Are you currently married?” and “Do you have any children under 18 living in your household?” The exit polling found that 51% of those “married with children” voted for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) while only 48% voted for President Barack Obama.
This year, however, the NEP did not ask respondents if they were married. So instead we found out that “Men with Children” preferred the GOP 58% to 40% while “Women with Children” preferred Democrats 52% to 45%. But there is a big difference between “Women with Children” who are married and “Women with Children” who are not. For example, more than a third of single mothers are poor compared to just 6.4% of married couples with children. Single-parent families with children are almost six times more likely to be poor than married couples. How did marriage affect voters’ preferences in 2010? We don’t know because the NEP stopped asking respondents if they were married.
This is not to say that the NEP stopped asking about marriage all together. Instead of asking respondents whether or not they themselves were married, the NEP did ask them: “Should same-sex marriages be legally recognized in your state?”
So our media elites do care if same-sex couples can get married, but they do not care if the rest of America is married. Is it just a coincidence that the first year a same-sex marriage question makes it onto the poll the traditional marriage question disappears?