Walmart Moms Focus Group - Sept. 2014
On behalf of Walmart, Public Opinion Strategies and Purple Strategies conducted two focus groups of Walmart Moms. (Walmart Moms are defined as voters with children age 18 or younger at home and who shopped at Walmart at least once in the past month.)
The groups were conducted in Little Rock, AR and Des Moines, IA on September 9, 2014.
Concerns about personal security supplant economic anxiety.
Personal economic anxiety appears less salient than in our past Walmart Mom groups, yet concerns about personal safety, crime, school shootings, and international unrest are notably pervasive. They feel the country and world is changing and becoming more volatile.
Further, many Walmart Moms express specific concern about ISIS , reflecting national polling. However, this is unusual for swing voters and not a common theme we have heard in previous groups. Often international conflicts and turmoil have gone unnoticed by moms as their focus has been directed to domestic issues that had a direct impact on their household.
They describe recent events, from the riots in Ferguson to the ISIS beheadings, as unsettling and scary. Many moms tie all this violence together; one mom, for example, explained she didn't know much about the Rwanda conflict as a child, but kids today learn about violence through both international conflict and local crime.
Financial concerns have eased, but they are not absent.
Only a handful of moms directly mention how they or a family member are struggling to find work, have been laid-off, or have concerns about their or their spouse's job security. They may not be prospering, but they feel more confident about the consistency and stability of their personal economic situation.
That is not to say that these women do not have financial hardship. Many recount familiar struggles — stretching the family budget, dealing with health issues, and managing the household while often holding a full-time job. Although they may be more assured about their economic stability, it is clear they have recalibrated to adjust to the "new normal" and still face many of the same struggles, but minus the anxiety.
Walmart Moms remain deeply pessimistic about government dysfunction and the direction of the country.
Government dysfunction looms like a dark cloud over moms' views about where our country is headed. There is no faith in Washington's ability to handle their day-to-day responsibilities and address the issues that affect moms and their families. Moms perceive the gridlock and partisanship as a hamper on Congress' ability to accomplish anything, leaving many moms dismayed and frustrated by their seemingly idle approach.
A common observation is politicians seem less concerned about standing for something and working together to accomplish any goal, than they are about fighting their opposition and finding ways to prevent them from succeeding with their objectives. For these moms, the political system is broken and all are to blame.Moms also say they feel voiceless. They feel elected officials are beholden to their campaign donors and only care about the interests of those with deep pockets instead of their average constituents. Special interests are perceived to be especially pervasive and influential among politicians, and as a result moms feel drowned out from the political process.
Further, Walmart Moms express concern about how this dysfunction could ultimately affect them and their households. Any optimism they feel personally is outweighed by a fear of "backsliding," particularly given the country's political dysfunction. The middle class itself is in danger of "disappearing"
Walmart Moms see a contrast between themselves and politicians.
Walmart Moms say loud and clear that Washington politicians "don't get" what it's like to be them. They see politicians as having completely different lives. Moms have to worry about the basics — paying for gas, shopping for groceries, managing the household. Politicians are chauffeured, so don't even "pump their own gas."
Opinions of President Obama have dulled since the 2012 elections.
Regardless of their 2012 vote, moms' opinions of Obama have dulled. At best, some feel sorry for him. Many moms explain he's faced enormous obstacles and a difficult political climate. Some say "anyone" would've struggled in the partisan gridlock gripping Washington. On the other side, those who may not have supported him in 2012 express disappointment with how he has handled the job and some of his issue objectives, though few show anger. Both groups of moms seem to wander in the middle ground somewhere between mild disappointment and deflation.
Obama is almost a non-factor in the midterms.
As a result of their mild opinions toward President Obama, he is not a driving factor in the midterm elections. Walmart Moms are not voting for or against Obama with their vote this fall, despite how he might shape the political environment. This means that while he may be a player in how moms perceive the dysfunction in Washington, they will not have President Obama directly in mind when casting their vote in November.
Congress doesn't get moms and moms don't get Congress.
Moms' cynicism about Congress' ability to relate to them on a personal level results in a complete disinterest in following or acknowledging their political leaders. While antipathy toward and frustration with Congress are high, information about Congress is low. Few can name leaders, or which party controls which chamber. Part of the reason is that moms are so discouraged by Washington that they do not feel it matters which party is in control because nothing is likely to change.
Few see how changing control of the Senate would impact them personally.
Given that few know which party currently has control of the Senate, next to no one in either group said flipping the Senate (or preventing a flip) will drive their vote. They mostly know the individual candidates, but ultimately control of the Senate is not believed to be something that would impact them or their household directly, so it doesn't impact their vote. Frankly, few believe it would even matter who is in control — for them, the partisanship gridlock would not improve, no matter who is in charge.
In Arkansas, neither Senate candidate has galvanized these moms.
Walmart Moms remain split between Pryor and Cotton in the race for Senate, although neither candidate has connected to these moms. Most say they are turned off by "mudslinging" yet some ads (although many remember key negative ad messages). Moms are looking for cues in clothing, family, faith, and background, but both candidates come up lacking. Obamacare, veterans, and rural issues may be salient.
However, in the Governor's race, Hutchinson has an early edge among Walmart Moms due to his higher name recognition, but they are far from sold on him until the learn more. The Lt. Governor's race is a big question mark — very few of these moms have any inclination about this race.
In the Iowa Senate race, Ernst's image is far more fleshed out, but the race is still tied.
Despite a tied race, more moms can recall something about Ernst. Hardly any know anything about Braley—either positive of negative. But moms mention Ernst's background, her job, and her endorsements. One mom wonders if it's because Ernst is a woman, like "all of us in this room."
Most information about the candidates comes from political ads.
Several moms volunteer they are not "following politics closely." Many say they rely on television advertising. Next to no one has spoken about a Senate race with a friend or neighbor. None are attending townhalls, rallies, debates, or reading about candidates online, so the information they receive is naturally incomplete.
If control for Senate goes through these two states, it is still up for grabs.
Clearly, many of these voters are still very much undecided and still in play for both sides. Their views could change "in an hour," says one mom. These groups help highlight how influential Walmart Moms can be as late deciders in both races. They simply have too many other concerns and priorities to be tuned into the race this far out. As we have seen in previous research, the closer to Election Day we get, the more attentive Walmart Moms will become.