Strange bedfellows: spouses splitting the vote in their homes

Another of those strange little sidebar tales coming off the campaign trail popped up this week and it hits rather close to home for yours truly. Of course, the feature in this story from NPR Vermont is about two Democrats, but I have to wonder how much of this goes on across the country. This couple features only one spouse who is feeling the Bern.


Carol and Bob Backus have been married 15 years. They’re both engaged citizens and longstanding Democrats, but this year they watched the Democratic debate in separate rooms.

Like many Democrats in New Hampshire, the couple is split over their vote in this year’s primary. Carol is a fierce advocate of Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Bob is throwing his weight behind former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Though Bob was quick to point out that he and his wife did come together during the debate to make cookies.

At least they’re willing to eat at the same table. If you read the interview, both the husband and the wife are clearly engaged and trying to keep up with the issues, but arrive at different destinations. Perhaps one of the more amazing moments is when the wife compares Bernie Sanders to John F. Kennedy. (Sorry… I should have warned you to put your coffee down before tossing that one out there.)

This can’t be all that uncommon. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned in the past, I happen to be married to a Democrat, though she’s one who really doesn’t like Hillary Clinton. (She is feeling the Bern though, sadly.) I can speak to the depths these in house divisions run to, possibly more so than most folks. Back in 2012 I was top line staff in a congressional campaign for a Republican attempting to unseat a 20 year incumbent Democrat in a D +10ish district. It absorbed all my time as such things do and was the main subject of conversation between my wife and I when I managed to have some time at home. The race was drawing shockingly close for such a tough district and while we knew that we could still lose it was going to be a nail biter. We talked about how, if my guy won, we would have to move to D.C. as a staffer and the changes it would mean for us. My wife was not only supportive, but seemed excited at the prospect. She supported me fully in my work and seemed very positive about the prospect of a major career change.


And in the end she still voted for the Democrat anyway.

That was before I came up with the #HeadDesk hashtag, but it certainly would have applied. Thinking back on that I began wondering how much damage politics can do to your relationship. Should we only date and marry within our own “tribe” politically speaking? I managed to find this interview with “relationship expert” Joan Barnard a while ago which purports to answer some of those questions.

Barnard’s study showed women care more about politics than men do. Women were 20 percent more likely to respond with “very important” and “somewhat important” when asked how important it is to reveal political party affiliation in an online profile or during initial conversations.

Research also shows how age can influence your opinions. Men between 18 and 24 were 20 percent more likely than any other age group to admit to having changed their political beliefs due to a significant other’s influence.

The majority of men and women admit to dating across party lines. Seventy-five percent of respondents stated that they do date across political party lines.

Young people changing their views on politics isn’t all that surprising to me, and if you’re doing it “for love” at that age I suppose it’s forgiven. People do a lot for love. Later in life we seem to settle more into our ways and will be less likely to let a relationship throw us off track. But does it really hurt? Hasn’t seemed to do any damage in our house and it sounds like Carol and Bob Backus plan on sticking together no matter who gets the Dem nomination. I suppose love is still grand after all.


But just to be sure we might want to check back in on Carol and Bob this September.


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David Strom 5:20 PM | April 19, 2024