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The Mommy Quotient

The ABC News finding that Sarah Palin dramatically upped John McCain’s support among white women is one I’m not entirely convinced by, mostly because other polling by the same agency shows Sarah Palin performing worse among women than she does among men. One needs to remember that the margins of error are much higher for subsamples of the data than for the poll as a whole. That’s why I generally don’t spend a lot of time focusing on the demographics in individual polls. If a poll is breaking out six or eight different demographic groups, and the margins of error on these subsamples are 6 or 8 or 10 or 12 points, then odds are that something is going to be out of alignment merely due to chance alone.

With that said, there is a subheadline in the ABC poll that I find both more interesting and more believable. Sarah Palin polls very well among women with children — specifically white women with children, who give her an 80 percent favorability rating. In fact, it appears to me that Palin’s high favorability ratings among women are entirely owing to her popularity among women with children. Roughly one-third of registered female voters should have children at home, which means that among white women without children, her favorability rating is around 60 percent — still pretty decent, but barely different from the 58 percent she received in the poll overall.

So — one is led to ask — which state has the most moms? The table below ranks the 50 states, based on 2000 census data, by the percentage of residents aged 18 and up who are women with their own children living in the same household (WWC). States that are presently in the top 15 in our tipping point rankings are highlighted in a maternal purple.

This distribution is mostly a function of age: states with young populations like Utah and Texas rank toward the top, and states with older populations (meaning more women are post-menopausal), like Hawaii and Florida, rank toward the bottom. In general, the top of the list consists of red states; whether motherhood begets conservatism or conservatism begets motherhood, we will leave as an exercise for the reader (my guess is the former). Among the battleground states, 11 of 15 rank below average.

But now let’s look at an arguably more relevant metric, which is the percentage of white women with children at home (WWWC):

Here, the swing states are distributed a bit more evenly, in part because the swing states tend to be somewhat whiter than the country as a whole. I don’t quite buy that Palin is going to help in New Hampshire, which is the fourth most pro-choice state in the country, but some of these other states are worth watching. Conversely, there isn’t much of the Palin target demographic in states like Florida and Nevada.

Nate Silver is the founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.