Is It All About The ‘Walmart Moms?’
posted at 6:57 am on October 5, 2012 by Matt Vespa
UPDATED: As Election Day approaches, there are some Americans who remain on the sidelines in this race. One demographic that could tip the balance of this race are the “Walmart moms.” These women represent 44% of all the undecided voters in this election cycle. As Daniel Trotta wrote in Reuters yesterday, Romney pollster Neil Newhouse said “Overwhelmingly they are concerned with their family budgets, not the national budget…they are concerned about putting food on the table or gas in the tank. They haven’t tuned into the campaign yet because they are struggling with their daily lives. They are living one paycheck away from going off the financial cliff.” Well, if there is one person who has hit their family budgets the hardest – it’s President Barack Obama. However, they’re unsure about Romney. From a previous post, I reiterate that while the “Walmart moms” like Romney’s business experience, but also see that Obama was dealt a bad hand in this economy, despite their disappointment with his presidency.
These women have felt economic hardship and reaching them is expensive. Both the Romney and Obama campaigns have made “special effort[s] to woo the undecideds in swing states with phone calls, direct mail, email and one-on-one contact….’that kind of personalized contact is the most effective way to mobilize the undecideds,’ said Diana Owen, a political science professor at Georgetown University, but it is also expensive. ‘That being said,” Owen said, “it’s never good to write off a sizable constituency. As we saw in 2000, it takes very few votes to switch the outcome of an election.”
However, with the 2012 election in a dead heat – let’s breakdown the “Walmart moms.” Americans are evenly split with 46% favoring President Obama and 45% favoring Mitt Romney. This current election cycle has crossed the $1 billion dollar mark and roughly 9% of the electorate is still undecided. Walmart Moms are defined as a group of women who have hit economic hard times, have shopped at a Walmart store in the past month, and are typically young. In fact, 47% of all Walmart Moms have been hit with an “economic speed bump.”
Alex Bratty of Public Opinion Strategies detailed this demographic at Smart Girl Summit last July. They are identified as a swing group with moderate leanings. They voted Democratic in 2008, but decided to takes away the president’s credit card in 2010 and sided with Republicans. They make up 27% of all registered women voters and constitute 14% of the electorate. Needless to say, both camps are catering to these young moms.
Concerning party identification, they’re almost evenly split 35%-33% Democratic to Republican. Overall, 49% of them want Republicans to control Congress compared to 39% who don’t. This is very different considering that when compared to all women voters – where 38% want the GOP to control congress and 45% do not.
In the study, Bratty and her firm found out that:
1.Walmart Moms are not fully engaged in the campaign dialogue, but there is an increasing amount of interest in this year’s election. Compared to 2011 (and our online discussion groups conducted in April this year), these moms seem more interested in the upcoming presidential elections. They are aware that the race is between President Obama and Mitt Romney, and some can describe certain differences between the two candidates. A few in each group have already seen some campaign ads. However, their knowledge tends to be somewhat vague. It is clear they are still not fully engaged and cannot describe the campaigns or the candidates with much detail.
- President Obama is more recognizable and familiar to these moms, while Mitt Romney is still largely unknown.As might be expected, these Walmart Moms are more familiar with President Obama and his family than with Mitt Romney. Indeed, both groups tend to know very little about Romney. They know he is a businessman, and some note he is a family man, but most are unable to offer many other specifics. WALMART MOMS: UNSURE ABOUT BOTH CANDIDATES & UNDECIDED IN THEIR VOTE
- Walmart Moms have doubts about both candidates.Although these moms are more familiar with President Obama, some have doubts about his abilities to get the country moving in the right direction. Specifically, some say Obama has not delivered on his 2008 campaign promises, or say he has not done more during his last three years to address the economy. And, there are mixed views on what he has done so far: some give him praise for health care reform, while others view it negatively.As for Romney, some moms perceive him as being out of touch, citing his personal demeanor or wealth as signs of this. Nonetheless, there is some uncertainty around who he is and most moms are just beginning to learn about him, his positions and what he stands for.
- Romney’s business background produces different points of view.These Walmart Moms in Richmond and Las Vegas are most likely to describe Mitt Romney as a businessman. Moms in both groups acknowledge the potential benefits of having a president with his experience. Some moms hope his success means he can apply his knowledge and skillset to the country’s economy if elected. One mom said the country “is like a big business.”However, some moms seem to be more worried about Romney’s business background. They mention he has closed factories and say he has cut jobs in the past, making them question how he might approach his term in office if elected.
- The families of the candidates are very important as these moms consider their vote.Make no mistake, the family lives of the candidates do matter. One of the first attributes the moms associate with each candidate is being a “good family man.” These moms give kudos to Michelle Obama and her work on healthy eating/living; and Latina Walmart Moms note that they can identify with her as a minority woman. They also appreciate that Obama has daughters and is “surrounded by women.”Mitt Romney is also recognized and praised as being a family man. However, since they know less about him, they also know less about his family at this time, and none are able to talk about his wife and children.
Charlie Cook also reiterated similar points in his column in the National Journal back in June when Bratty’s report was published stating:
There was a split between those who thought that President Obama had his chance to turn things around and those who hesitated about changing presidents when things were so bad. They were uncertain about having to start all over with change in a different direction. With few notable exceptions, these women did not identify so much with “women’s issues” as they did with “moms’ issues.”
For these women, Mitt Romney’s business background seems to be a double-edged sword: There’s an assumption that as a successful businessman, he brings some expertise to the table when it comes to the economy. But the perception of him being cool and aloof, and the impact of negative ads about his private-equity firm throwing people out of work, raised doubts about his motivations. There were questions about whether he would side with the average American.
Cook concludes, stating:
Many of these women are still window-shopping this election. Clearly, they knew more about Obama. Most had some degree of comfort with him, though they were concerned that he hadn’t been more effective. Romney, though, was a blank slate. These voters know little about him beyond the fact that he has been a wildly successful businessman. But what little they know came mostly from Democratic attack ads. In other words, they’re still listening.
However, some appear to be souring with both camps. As Trotta noted:
Lynette Povsha, 39, another undecided voter from Missoula, Montana, has been out of work three years and is ignoring her medical bills. She said neither candidate offers her any hope.
“The economy keeps getting worse. My electricity’s been off for months. I don’t qualify for (public assistance). I’m a white woman at 40 with no kids,” said Povsha, who voted for McCain in 2008 and has yet to be contacted by the campaigns this year. “I don’t see what either of these presidential wannabes can do for me. I might put Mickey Mouse down for president.”
DeEntre Thompson, 38, a school bus driver from Columbus, Ohio, said he doubted either Obama or Romney could win his vote. He said he voted for Bill Clinton twice, George W. Bush twice, and “reluctantly” for McCain in 2008.
“With the two clowns that are running, I say ‘undecided’ because I don’t have a third option,” Thompson said, lamenting the lack of a strong third-party candidate. “If one of them showed up at my door and paid all my bills, he could sway me. Anything short of that, no.”
I wish he cited some Obama supporters, but it’s Thomsen Reuters. Nevertheless, it’s a key voting bloc and both campaigns have a limited amount of time to claim a winning share of them.