In 2010 Public Opinion Strategies and Momentum Analysis conducted a variety of research on Walmart Moms including focus groups and a series of quantitative surveys, including a multi-state survey and post-election survey. Focus groups conducted among Walmart Moms on September 17th set the stage for exploring what Walmart Moms care about and what they expect from their elected officials. They were followed up by a multi-state survey in October before the 2010 election and another national survey in the days immediately following that election. This final post-election survey confimred the trend of earlier research. Walmart Moms votes with their pocket books, sending a message of economic angst to Washington.
Post-Election Survey Methods
On behalf of Walmart, Public Opinion Strategies and Momentum Analysis conducted a national survey of N=400 Walmart Moms who voted in the 2010 elections. The survey was conducted by telephone, November 2-3, 2010, and has a margin of error of +4.9%.
Multi-State Pre-Election Survey Methods
On behalf of Walmart, Public Opinion Strategies and Momentum Analysis conducted five statewide surveys, each of N=250 Walmart Moms who are registered voters. The surveys were conducted by telephone in California, Colorado, Florida, Missouri and Pennsylvania from October 7-13, 2010, and each has a margin of error of +6.2%.
Focus Groups Background
On behalf of Walmart, Public Opinion Strategies and Momentum Analysis conducted three focus groups of Walmart Moms. The groups were conducted in Montgomeryville, PA; St. Louis, MO; and Denver, CO on September 17, 2010.
Post-Election National Survey
By a wide margin, Walmart Moms chose the Republican candidate for Congress.
The majority of Walmart Moms (61%) voted Republican on Tuesday, while 37% opted for the Democratic candidate in their District and 2% put a check mark beside a third party candidate. Self-identified Republican Walmart Moms voted the party line (97% Republican, 3% Democrat), as did self-identified Democratic Moms (6% Republican, 91% Democrat).
So, it was Independent Moms that tipped the scales, breaking for the Republican Congressional candidate over the Democratic candidate by a 58% to 36% margin (similar to the margin Independents gave the GOP in national exit polls).
The message was clear — as it has been all along from these women — it's about the economy and jobs.
Throughout all the polling we have conducted this year among Walmart Moms, the key thing we heard loud and clear was that they are struggling more than most in this economy. This data is no different: 80% of Walmart Moms think the nation's economy is getting worse or staying the same; a majority (54%), assume the same prognosis for the coming year; and more than four-in-ten (43%) of these women say they have been personally affected "a great deal" or "quite a bit" by the downturn in the economy.
So, it's hardly a mystery that more than half (54%) of Walmart Moms said the most important issue deciding their vote for Congress this year was the economy and jobs.Health care came in a distant second place at 38%, education at 29% and federal spending at 24%. (Voters were asked their first and second choices.)
Interestingly, Moms voting on the issue of education voted Democratic (40% Republican, 53% Democrat), while Moms voting on the issue of health care broke Republican (63% Republican, 34% Democrat). But, among Walmart Moms who voted with their pocket books -- choosing the economy and jobs, federal spending or taxes as their main concerns -- the Republican candidate won by more than a two-to-one margin (66%-32%).
Walmart Moms are a "swing voter" group, but the Moms who showed up to vote were more likely to self-identify as Republican.
Throughout our research, the Walmart Mom voting bloc has self-reported voting for Obama in 2008 and has either been split in their party identification or more likely to be Democratic. In this poll, we found a more Republican group of women who showed up to vote (43% Republican, 28% Independent, 27% Democrat). But, this is not entirely surprising. In general, Walmart Moms have consistently reported a lower interest in this year's elections than all voters, and we've found a significant partisan enthusiasm gap throughout our polling. Even back in May, 54% of Republican Walmart Moms expressed high interest in the election compared to 37% of Independent Moms and 38% of Democratic Moms, and we saw little evidence that this gap narrowed closer to Election Day.
Underscoring their "swing voter" profile, many of these Moms were undecided in their vote until very recently.
One-third (33%) of Walmart Moms say they made their vote decision in just the last two weeks of October, right before or actually on Election Day. And, the one-fifth of Walmart Moms who decided their vote within the last three days appear to have had a fairly tough time making up their mind since the margin by which they chose the Republican candidate over the Democratic candidate was just seven points (51% Republican, 43% Democrat).
There was a substantial number of Walmart Moms who were truly going back-andforth on their vote decision. Roughly three-in-ten (27%) Walmart Moms who voted Democratic say they thought about voting Republican during this year's campaign, and 20% of Republican voters say they considered voting Democratic.
Although these Walmart Moms chose the Republican candidate, it was NOT a ringing endorsement for the Republican Party.
Moms who voted Democratic were fairly clear that their vote for Congress was in support of Obama and the Democratic leadership (52%) rather than a vote of opposition to the policies of the Republican Party (39%).
However, Walmart Moms voting Republican are much more conflicted on this point. Forty-nine percent of Walmart Moms who voted GOP (49%) say their vote was in support of Republican policies and the party's leaders, while 45% say it was an opposition vote against Obama and the Democratic Party.
Underscoring this lack of enthusiasm for the Republican Party and the importance of the Independent vote, self-identified Independent Moms who voted Republican in this year's elections were slightly more likely to say their vote was in opposition to Democrats (49%) than in support of Republicans. For Independent Moms, this election was less about voting a party preference and more about voting for some change on the economy — two thirds of these women (67%) say the economy and jobs was the issue that decided their final vote.
In fact, a majority of Walmart Moms were not aware of the Republicans' proposed agenda.
Just 14% of Walmart Moms say they have seen, read or heard "a lot" about the Republican agenda, "A Pledge to America," while 28% say they have "some" awareness of it. But, fully 57% say they have heard "not too much" or "nothing at all" about the agenda. The Walmart Moms who are more likely to be aware of the Pledge tend to be strong supporters of the Tea Party (69% heard "a lot" or "some"), strong Republicans (54%) and Moms age 40+ (51%).
Other than their concern about the economy and jobs, the next message Walmart Moms wanted to send was that President Obama needs to make some changes.
A solid majority of Moms (71%) say they want to see a change in the direction President Obama has been taking the country. Large numbers of these Republican Moms are calling for significant change (87% a lot/quite a bit of change, 11% just some/not that much change), as are Independent Moms (71%/29%). But, even a substantial portion of self-identified Democratic Walmart Moms would like to see their President make changes (43%/52%).
Providing further evidence of their dissatisfaction with the President, by a two-to-one margin Walmart Moms say they would NOT reelect President Obama in 2012.
Just 29% of Walmart Moms say President Obama deserves to be reelected, while 60% say they think it will be time to give a new person a chance in 2012. Behind these numbers, once again we see the impact of Independent Moms making the difference — while Republican and Democratic Moms offer the expected partisan response to this question; Independents tip 58% to 32% in favor of giving a new person a chance.
Walmart Moms are NOT optimistic that the President and Congress will get the job done over the next two years.
One-third (32%) of Walmart Moms say they feel "optimistic and confident" or "satisfied and hopeful" that the President and new Congress will work together to get things done. Meanwhile, the other two-thirds (65%) feel "uncertain and wondering" or "pessimistic and worried" that not much will get done.
Yet, Walmart Moms aren't in favor of compromise to get consensus.
Further evidence of their "swing voter" and at times contradictory character — just 34% of Walmart Moms say they want the candidate they voted for to make compromises so that consensus on legislation can be reached, versus 60% who say they want their candidate to stick to his or her positions even if it means not being able to gain consensus. This is a remarkable finding and very different from what we heard in our September focus groups where these Moms were adamant about wanting Congress to compromise to get things done.
Walmart Moms are virtually unanimous that getting Americans back to work is an absolute top or high priority.
It's the economy and jobs, jobs, jobs — we heard this in the focus groups, we've heard it from other voters — it's all that really matters right now. There is agreement across the board that getting Americans back to work is an absolute must over the next two years.
But, priorities can diverge. Republican Walmart moms would actually place more emphasis on repealing the health care bill (47%) and dramatically cutting federal spending (42%) than getting Americans back to work (40%). Independent and Democratic Walmart Moms place jobs first (45% and 56% respectively), followed by improving our public schools (34% and 38% respectively).
(This dichotomy of opinion between Independent Walmart Moms and their GOP counterparts sets the stage for yet another pressure point that could drive these voters away from the GOP.)
However, when forced to choose, Walmart Moms of all political stripes say getting the economy back on track and people back to work (70%) is more important than getting our financial house in order by dealing with the budget deficit and national debt (26%).
Federal spending is perceived as a problem, but how to deal with it is potentially more problematic.
Fully 73% of Walmart Moms say that "dramatically cutting federal spending" should be a "top" or "high" priority for President Obama and the next Congress, with these Moms more in support of making cuts to entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare (35%) than they are to spending less on programs such as education, defense and law enforcement (16%).
Extending the tax cuts is NOT a top priority of Walmart Moms.
Not only were "taxes" not one of the top vote determinants among these Walmart Moms, but "extending the middle class tax cuts" fell well behind other issues in terms of priorities for the next Congress, ranking sixth of eight possible priorities. Further, "extending tax cuts for households with incomes over $250K" ranks as the lowest priority for these Walmart Moms. Clearly, tax cuts fell by the wayside for these voters in 2010, supplanted by concerns about the economy/jobs, health care reform and government spending.
Over the long run, Walmart Moms are optimistic that the current economic downturn is temporary.
By a wide 76%-19% margin, these Walmart Moms believe the economic downturn is just temporary and will recover, rather than being "part of a long-term permanent decline" in the nation's economy.
In the end, the impact of economic conditions on these Moms made the difference and many voted with their pocket books. The economy, jobs and other fiscal issues were key priorities and Republican candidates won the majority of Walmart Moms who were most concerned about these issues.
However, that's not to say Walmart Moms feel particularly confident things will get done in Washington or that Republicans are really their political party of choice. Rather, Moms voting Republican were conflicted over whether their vote was in support of Republicans or opposition to Democrats.
What happens over the next two years — particularly on the economy and jobs — will play a key factor in how these Moms might break in the future. Given their "swing voter" status for two election cycles in a row, there's every reason to believe they will be an important group to watch in 2012.
Pre-Election Multi-State Survey
Public Opinion Strategies partnered with Momentum Analysis to start exploring the question this past May. First, we conducted a national online survey, and followed up in September with a national telephone survey and a series of focus groups. Our findings indicate that Walmart Moms represent roughly 15%-17% of the electorate and these women could play an important role in the outcome of the 2010 elections.
Now, just a few weeks out from Election Day, our firms conducted telephone surveys in states with exciting U.S. Senate elections to drill down further and understand the attitudes and voting intentions of Walmart Moms in these specific states.
Similar to what we saw two years ago, our national survey data in May of this year showed Walmart Moms to be quintessential swing voters: They were more likely to report voting for Obama in 2008 and to self-identify as Democrats. But, they were leaning towards voting for a Republican candidate for Congress. As the election cycle continued, our national survey data in September revealed a sub-group of Walmart Moms who were more evenly divided in their partisan identification, and a majority of them saying they would choose a Republican candidate for Congress. These statewide surveys, conducted in early October, show this trend continuing.
Our results suggest that moms who shop at Walmart may have broken with the 2008 allegiances this year, and could contribute significantly to Republican gains in these states.
In these states, the Walmart Moms we interviewed are more likely to identify as being Republican.
In California and Missouri, Walmart Moms tilt Republican, but still have a fairly split partisan affiliation. However, in Colorado, Florida and Pennsylvania, by double digits, Walmart Moms are more likely to report being Republican than Democrats.
Walmart Moms favor the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate in each of
these states, but California and Florida are within margin of error. In California and Florida, the Republican candidate has just a four or five point lead in the race among Walmart Moms. In other states, there is a significant preference for Republicans running for the U.S. Senate.
However, a surprising number of Walmart Moms still have not made up their mind.
Note in the chart above, the high percentage of "undecided" Walmart Moms in each state — double digits in all but Florida. It is striking to see this level of indecision with just a few weeks left to Election Day, particularly given the significant amount of money that has been spent in each of these states – collectively, over $100 million to date.
Preference for which party should control Congress also shifts towards the Republicans, with California the only state where Walmart Moms are essentially tied.
A majority of Walmart Moms say they would prefer a congress controlled by Republicans in Colorado (58% GOP control/31% Democratic control), Florida (56%/35%), Missouri (51%/33%), and Pennsylvania (56%/32%). California is tied within margin of error at 41% Republican control, 38% Democratic control. Again though, it is important to note the significant percentage of undecided moms in these states, who are still potentially "up-for-grabs." With the exception of Florida (8% undecided), 10% or more of these moms say they have not made up their mind.
More than three-quarters of Walmart Moms say their leaders are out of touch with their needs.
Echoing a sentiment we heard in September's focus groups, Walmart Moms do not think their elected officials understand their needs and struggles. In each state, majorities of Republican and Democratic Walmart Moms agree with the statement: "Our political leaders in Washington are out of touch with my needs and the needs of my family."
Roughly four-in-ten Walmart Moms would say goodbye to all Members of Congress.
Even if it meant voting out their own Member of Congress, with the exception of Missouri (35%), 40% or more of Walmart Moms in these states say they would vote to defeat and replace every Member of Congress if there were a place on their ballot to do so.
Based on what Walmart Moms are seeing from Republican and Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate in their state, they generally come away with a net negative feeling.
Except for Florida and Pennsylvania, where the Republican campaigns manage to produce a more favorable image for their candidate, in each state, Walmart Moms are left with a less favorable opinion of the candidate in each U.S. Senate campaign.
At least eight-in-ten Walmart Moms say it matters which party controls Congress.
Across these states, Walmart Moms are emphatic that it is personally important to them which party has control of Congress. More than half of these women in each state say it is "very" important, and a total of 80% or more say it is "very" or "somewhat" important.
Yet, it is unclear how committed these Moms are to turning out in November.
In our September focus groups, Walmart Moms told us they would not start really tuning into the elections until mid-October. These state surveys were fielded in early October and underscore this lack of intense engagement. Our national data among all voters shows that roughly half the electorate says they are "very" interested in this year's elections. Among these Walmart Moms, only about three-in-ten say they are "very" interested. Interestingly, though, the enthusiasm gap by party that we are measuring nationally is also prevalent in this data. Walmart Moms who self-identify as Republicans express a higher level of interest in the elections than those who are Democrats.
Few are optimistic about the nation's economy.
Across these five states just 13% to 22% of Walmart Moms say they think the country's economy is getting better, while 77% or more think it is about the same or getting worse. And, their outlook for the coming year isn't that much better – 50% to 63% say a year from today the economy will still be the same or worse.
And, there is little doubt these women are personally feeling the economic squeeze.
Only about half the Walmart Moms in these five states say, "I am in good shape. I am able to save and plan for the future," or "I am okay. I am saving a little and I am able to provide for my needs." The other half says, "I am barely getting by. I have to budget carefully and I am not able to plan for the future," "I am falling behind. I have had to use savings or go further into debt to pay my bills," or "I am in serious financial trouble, and can't quite see how I am going to make it."
It's little surprise then, that these women want to hear from candidates on the economy.
In most states, improving the job situation is by far the number one issue Walmart Moms want to hear candidates discuss in the last few weeks before the election. Issues near and dear to most moms — education and health care — are also important.
Economic angst often benefits the party out of power. We are seeing clear evidence of that in our work among all voters and this dynamic is starting to emerge among Walmart Moms. But, a few key measures indicate these women are far from enamored with their representation in Washington. Whether they self-identify as Republican or Democrat, Walmart Moms see their political leaders as out of touch with their needs.
So, while it may look like Walmart Moms are going to pull the lever for Republican candidates in most of these states, this data is a stark reminder for those who seek election to political office: It's time to listen to your voters and connect with what matters most to these women – jobs, schools and health care. And, with these women expressing a much lower level of interest than the national electorate, their presence at the voting booth is not guaranteed. They may still be waiting to hear the right message from the right candidate to make their final decision.
2010: Focus Groups
Our polling from May and September this year indicates these women could once again play an important role in the outcome of the 2010 elections. Representing roughly 15%-17% of the electorate, their support could determine the fate of many candidates this fall.
In-depth discussions with small groups of these women across the country reveal just how jaded and fed up these voters are with the politics-as-usual behavior of their elected officials in Washington. They are frustrated with the economy, concerned for their family's welfare and worried about what lies ahead for their children. They are planning to vote this November but have not yet focused on races for either Senate or Congress. These women are undecided and "up-for-grabs."
Although they plan to vote, Walmart Moms are not yet paying close attention to this year's elections.
Walmart Moms in these groups have surface-level awareness of the candidates running for U.S. Senate in their state this fall. They say it is too soon to tune into the campaigns and learn about the candidates' positions, but come mid-October they will start focusing on the race. As such, Walmart Moms are not yet locked in to voting Republican or Democrat and are still "up-for-grabs."
These women are feeling personally economically squeezed.
As many as three-fourths of these Walmart Moms said they had felt the impact of the recession first-hand, from losing jobs to losing their homes. They feel stressed about making ends meet, and specifically mention holding onto their jobs, feeding their families, keeping gas in the car, paying for their kids' education and the declining value of their homes. A few say they have become breadwinners, or co-earners, when their husbands have lost their jobs or seen their businesses suffer.
This economic struggle is the lens through which these moms view the political climate.
Once they tune in, these Moms say they want to know the candidates' positions, but they REALLY want to know what the candidates are going to do to make things better for them and their families. The issues they bring up, then, focus on these kitchen table concerns — jobs, housing, mortgage and banking reform, good schools and affordable college tuition.
In addition, other hot topics in the Washington, DC daily debate were discussed quite differently with these moms.
Moms were split on health care reform, but were more unsure than anything else about how the bill would unfold. Some mentioned the stimulus as a negative, not because of a concern about deficit spending, but because few had yet to feel a tangible improvement in their quality of life. Even more striking was the lack of heated dialogue on abortion, immigration, gay marriage, or the Tea Party. Corruption, lobbyists, and special interest influence were hardly mentioned. "Earmarks" were not mentioned once.
These Walmart Moms are skeptical that any of their elected officials are really doing anything to help them.
These women are jaded by the partisan bickering in Washington, and they are fed up on two major counts: Either Congress does not seem to get much done because they are juvenile and cannot find compromise; or, Congress seems to be continually taking from them all the time - taking away tax credits, raising taxes or imposing unforeseen consequences of the new health care legislation - adding to their already elevated economic stress.
They view their elected officials as out-of-touch and unconcerned about their constituents' needs.
Walmart Moms' view their representatives in Washington as elitist, with many earning $250,00 per year and coming from privileged backgrounds. As such they see them as completely unaware of the struggle "ordinary" people like them face each day. As one Philadelphia woman put it, "come live with me and my family for a year and understand what it takes..." to get through life. Her colleagues around the room (and in the other two groups) vigorously agree with this idea, but the group has little faith that even if that happened, politicians still wouldn't "get it."
The disconnect between Washington politicians and these women voters is vast. Walmart Moms clearly don't believe their elected officials listen to them and believe they have been forgotten by the "self-serving" policy-makers.
WMM are pessimistic about the direction of the country, telling is they feel "disgusted" with the state of the economy, that we are in a "in a rut" and a state of "disrepair."/h3>
Yet, several of these women recognize some tepid improvement from two years ago. Few think the economy is worse than two years ago, but most are struggling with the lack of obvious positive movement.
Despite their pessimism about the direction of the country, Walmart Moms do not blame President Obama. Several Moms say they "feel sorry for him" because a single person cannot be expected to "fix everything" that is wrong in the country right now. Even Republican Moms who voted for McCain and find Obama's policies "scary," are not inclined to direct their ire at the President. A consistent theme among these women is that Obama "is doing the best he can" under very difficult circumstances, and expectations were set too high when he came into office.
Instead, Walmart Moms point the finger at banks and back at themselves.
These women - particularly in Montgomeryville, PA - are serious about personal responsibility. When asked who is to blame for our economic woes many say "we are" and proceed with mea culpa stories of spending too much and saving too little. One woman describes how she had to cut up her credit cards six years ago to get things under control. Second in the firing line is banks. There is a clear sense these women are upset and angry about how banks contributed to the near collapse of our economy two years ago.
(As an interesting side note, NONE of the women in either Pennsylvania or Missouri specifically mentioned "government spending" as an issue that concerns them, preferring instead to focus on their anger over the bank bailouts.)
Walmart Moms think it makes little difference who controls Congress.
Although some moms express concerns about whether Democrats continue to hold the majority, or whether Republicans win control in Congress, essentially they think it is of little consequence when it comes to getting the job done. They allocate equal blame to Republicans and Democrats for the partisanship in Washington, DC and think it does not matter who's got control, it's always the same obstructive and uncooperative atmosphere. These voters likened the partisan bickering in Congress to a merry-go-round that never stops. (One women described Congress as "nibblers" - "they take a good bill and nibble it to death until it's crap.")
Regardless of who controls Congress, Walmart Moms want to see compromise.
These women are exasperated by the partisanship they see in Washington. They want their elected officials to assess legislation and policies on merit and not by whether they have been proposed by a Republican or Democratic Member of Congress. They also express a desire for their representatives to stand up and follow their principles, even if it means going against their own party.
Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader Boehner are not relevant to these womens' lives.
While the two may be locked in battle for leadership of the House, Walmart Moms have little sense of who either of them are, never mind who will emerge as Speaker following the November elections. To the extent they know Nancy Pelosi, they associate her somewhat negatively with health care reform legislation. John Boehner, on the other hand is completely unknown to these women.
For these economically squeezed moms, politics is an after-thought. They are not watching the cable news shows and don't know the names of the DC inside-the-beltway players. They are barely engaged in the Senate campaigns in their states and say they won't start paying attention until the end. Rather, these women are inwardly focused on their families and making difficult decisions on how to make-do without. (One women commented, "I don't think about the deficit, I think about how we're going to make it through the week.")
These Walmart women seem to be treading water, hoping they can make it though the never-ending recession with their families and homes intact, and looking to support candidates who give them hope that they can actually begin to fix the nation's economy.