WASHINGTON – The North Carolina couple won't even watch the news in the same room anymore. He is voting for Donald Trump to cancel out her vote for Hillary Clinton. The tension has brought their marriage to its lowest point, she said.
"I really, genuinely think the marriage is the worst it has ever been," said Tasha, who, like the others in a Charlotte, N.C., focus group last week, gave just her first name.
"It is a train wreck. I do not even want to hear it," she said. "He has to put headphones on to listen to his Fox News. It sends me over the edge."
Asked later to name one positive attribute about Clinton, Tasha's husband, Kyler, struggled.
"There might have been something before this campaign," he said. "But I hate her."
In most elections, married couples tend to vote alike. But this year, polls indicate that married women are spurning the Republican nominee in numbers not seen in decades. In households around the country, husbands and wives who have traditionally voted the same ticket are parting ways, creating tension — and denial.
In some cases, husbands keep Democratic canvassers and mailers from getting to their wives. In other cases, they are just putting blinders on.
Executives at the AFL-CIO's door-to-door campaign, Working America, say they get regular reports of canvassers being told to get lost by men who answer the door.
"We'll knock on a door and the husband will say 'we want nothing to do with you,' and slam the door in our face," said Karen Nussbaum, executive director of the group. "About 20 minutes later, his wife runs out to find us and tell us, 'He had it wrong — I agree with you.' "
Others talked of women married to Trump voters whispering out of earshot of their spouses that they will vote for Clinton.
A recent poll suggested that many husbands are in denial or in the dark. Asked in a YouGov/Economist poll this month whom they think their spouses would vote for, 33 percent of married men said Clinton would get their wives' votes. They were way off. Among married women, 45 percent said they were with her.
"Many women don't want to introduce conflict in their families over politics," said Democratic pollster Celinda Lake. "Women just say, 'Sure, honey,' and then go and vote their way."
The gender gap — women are more likely to vote Democratic and men for Republicans — is real. What's often less understood is that the division has usually been widest with unmarried women, who side overwhelmingly with Democratic candidates.
A majority of married women have not voted for a Democrat for president since Bill Clinton in 1996. Now, Hillary Clinton seems on track to get their votes.
Clinton's success may in part reflect her status as the first woman to win a major-party nomination. But it also reflects the uneasiness many female voters have with her opponent, who has been caught boasting about his unwanted sexual advances and has been accused by about a dozen women of harassment or assault.
Female voters tell pollsters they are anxious about Trump's bombast, the kind of role model he would be for their children, and the prospect of him having control of the nuclear launch codes. "I'm pretty sure there is not 100 percent truthfulness in wives talking to their husbands about who they are voting for," said pollster Neil Newhouse.