Walmart Moms Focus Group - Oct. 21, 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 Charlotte, NC and New Orleans, LA on October 20, 2014.
"The sad news is becoming familiar."
Moms have adjusted to a new normal where they feel numbed to bad news. "Nothing shocks" them anymore, from the economy to foreign affairs. Many say there are just "too many things going on," leading them to "detach" from the news because they have other priorities and concerns, mainly their families. Quite a few say they prefer to "put blinders on" or "try not to follow politics." One mom admits she prefers to watch "Doc McStuffins" with her kids (a cartoon on the Disney Junior network), because she doesn't want them to watch the crime and violence on the news. And as one of our more quotable moms says, "America is in the crapper."
Ebola has replaced ISIS as a worry about instability and government leadership.
Recall in our early September focus groups, ISIS was a dominant concern. It has almost been completely replaced by worries about Ebola. "Ebola is here, ISIS is there," explains one mom. A few—but not all—contemplate changing their behaviors, such as avoiding planes or home schooling their kids. Moms consider Ebola a threat that needs to be contained, especially in Louisiana where it is "right next door," but they do not necessarily feel it is an imminent threat — that is, this is more of a threat to the country, not to them personally.
The CDC—somewhat more than Obama—takes most of the blame, for being "too relaxed" and unprepared. While Ebola is certainly lessening moms' confidence in government, not one cites it as a reason to vote against (or for) Democrats in November.
In Louisiana, border security was a re-emerging concern.
There is concern over the security of the border, as several moms were drawn to this issue. For these moms it is emblematic of anxiety they feel regarding other issues, including national security, job security, and people "getting stuff they aren't entitled to," such as healthcare and other government benefits.
Obama receives different shades of troubling ratings.
We have rarely heard Walmart moms use heated rhetoric about the president, and these groups are no exception. However, views toward him are troubled and lack enthusiasm. Supporters say he is "dumped on" by Republicans whose political strategy is to simply oppose him. Others feel "betrayed" after falling short on promises of change during his campaign, or think he's "depressed" or has "given up." Despite these views, he is not a big factor in most moms' votes for the Senate, as more care about "where the candidates stand on the issues" than about how they feel about Obama. Nonetheless, support for Obama is a salient hit on both Senators Hagan and Landrieu.
There is no love lost for Congress.
Moms view Members of Congress as having "all the power," more focused on "bickering," and frequently paid for by lobbyists. Others call Congress "a joke," that plays politics as "a game." And even if you "replaced all of them" or elected candidates "with good intentions," moms fear the same pattern would hold. Senate control doesn't seem to matter to these moms, although some in Louisiana wondered if Republicans would try to get something done to "prove themselves" if they took control.
With these swing voting moms, information is low.
Essentially no party leaders in Congress have any depth to their image with these women. Moms can only name Pelosi unaided, and few know anything beyond her name. (Secretary of State) John Kerry is the only other party leader moms cite. After hearing the names of the other party leads, Boehner evokes some feeble recognition, while McConnell and Reid have none.
Despite the advertising, few can name much about the North Carolina Senate candidates.
Not many moms can recall much about either Senator Hagan or State House Speaker Thom Tillis. Only some recall an ad attacking Hagan for skipping votes to attend a fundraiser, but there is limited recall beyond that. Voters acknowledge the tone of the campaign has been negative, but few messages are actually sticking with these voters.
And while many moms cited education as a concern (and despite this race focusing more on education that most), few moms could recall either candidate's position on education. Moms say they would decide "closer to the election," by "Googling the night before," like "cramming for a test." The vote was tied 5 to 5, but they are still very much up-for-grabs.
In Louisiana, Landrieu is more defined.
Landrieu is the most defined of all the Senate candidates examined in either group this evening. This definition comes from both positive ads (a "cute" ad with her father), and negative ones ("she doesn't even live here anymore"). More New Orleans moms could recall contrast ads about both candidates than could North Carolina moms. Nonetheless, moms aren't enthusiastic here either. Landrieu received 3 votes and Cassidy received none. Some said they're more interested in the runoff, others aren't sure.
There are no expectations that Washington will change if either candidate is elected.
Moms in both Louisiana and North Carolina may say the vote for the person and where they stand on the issues, but few, if any, believe the person elected to the Senate will make a difference in how Washington operates. The problem is systematic and not contingent on one Senate race. Moms want someone who represents their values, but there is not an expectation of change, regardless of who is elected.
Louisiana moms are more economically anxious.
While moms in both groups cite crime, Ebola, and international threats, New Orleans moms seem to be struggling more to rebound economically. Several use Katrina as a reference point and others mention husbands or ex-husbands who lost work in the past few years, placing the burden on them to support their families.
Even when considering shopping for Christmas, moms in both markets seek out good deals throughout the year to find gifts that support their budget. Others also save each month, take a second job, or pare down presents to extended family members.
Moms want candidates to know their struggles.
Moms want candidates to know the challenges they face—paying for kids' classes, getting everyone fed, handling a husband's job loss. Even affording holiday presents creates a challenge. But moms are also focused on making sure their kids grow up "emotionally stable" with strong values, and are "safe" from increasing violence. Moms fear Washington politicians have lost personal experience with these struggles, and so no longer fight with the same sense of urgency. Moms say politicians "don't get it" and need to "walk in my shoes." This is a perennial Walmart mom complaint that frankly only gets louder with each conversation.