Walmart Moms: 2011 Research

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In 2011 Public Opinion Strategies and Momentum Analysis conducted a variety of research on Walmart Moms including a series of focus groups in October 2011 and an accompanying survey. Focus groups conducted among Walmart Moms on October 5th set the stage for exploring what Walmart Moms care about and what they expect from their elected officials. Just over a year out from the 2012 elections, this survey and focus group research provides some real insight into voter attitudes overall, and how Walmart Moms may be different from the rest of the electorate.

Survey Methods

On behalf of Walmart, Public Opinion Strategies and Momentum Analysis conducted a national survey among N=800 registered voters and N=600 Walmart Moms. The survey was conducted October 20‐24, 2011. The margin of error for N=800 is +3.5% and for N=600 is +4.0%.

This survey was completed following a series of focus groups conducted among Walmart Moms in Florida, Iowa and New Hampshire on October 5th, 2011. Walmart Moms are defined as women voters with children age 18 or younger living at home and who shop at Walmart at least once per month.

Focus Groups Background

On behalf of Walmart, Public Opinion Strategies and Momentum Analysis conducted three focus groups of Walmart Moms (defined as women 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 Orlando, FL; Manchester, NH and Des Moines, IA on October 5, 2011.

Portrait of Walmart Moms

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Public Opinion Strategies and Momentum Analysis tracked Walmart Moms during 2010 and we are starting to monitor this important sub‐group once again as the 2012 election cycle gets underway.

We conducted three focus groups among Walmart Moms in early October and this survey reinforces many of our findings: These women are more economically squeezed than most voters and somewhat conflicted about their choices for 2012. Walmart Moms were a "swing voter" group in 2008 and 2010. They are important because:

  • They represent 27% of all registered women voters, meaning they are roughly 14% of the electorate.
  • They profile as "middle‐of‐the‐road" voters.
  • They voted for Obama in 2008.
  • In May 2010 they approved of Obama and were split on their choice for Congress.
  • By November 2010, they helped tip the scales for Republicans.

Survey

Swing Voters Again In 2012?

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Unlike the rest of the country, or even all registered women voters, Walmart Moms are almost evenly split on their partisan identification; and they seem to hold somewhat conflicting political views.

On the one hand.…

They want the government to do more to solve problems and help people (51% versus 43% government is doing too much).  

When it comes to the state of the economy, they are less likely than most voters to blame Wall Street (21% all voters, 15% Walmart Moms), and more likely to blame former President Bush (15% all voters, 22% Walmart Moms).

They remain optimistic about President Obama (57% hopeful, 42% given up).

On the other hand…

Right now they say they would prefer a Republican‐controlled Congress (49% Republican, 39% Democratic).

A majority disapprove of the job President Obama is doing (43% approve, 54% disapprove).

More than half (52%) of Walmart moms think the President's economic policies are a bad idea

More Economically Squeezed

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A major factor that sets Walmart Moms apart from all voters is how economically challenged they seem to be. Close to half (47%) report the loss of a job or work hours in their household over the past year (compared to 40% among all voters).

As they look ahead to the coming year, almost three‐quarters (73%) say they expect to deal with a major economic squeeze, such as not being able to afford vacation, the cost of health care, or needing to find a second or third job to make ends meet in their household (compared to 57% of all voters).

Walmart moms are also more likely than voters overall to have undertaken a host of cost‐ savings measures, such as eating out less, using discount coupons more often, and putting off major repairs to car or home.

More Focused On The Home

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Walmart Moms are more concerned about their family's kitchen table issues than what's happening at the national level.

By almost a two‐to‐one margin, Walmart Moms say they worry more about their own household income and budget (61%) than the country's economy and our national debt (33%). This is in striking contrast to all voters (42% worry more about national economy/49% own household income and budget).

And, while economic issues top the list of concerns for all voters (51%) and Walmart Moms (45%), Walmart Moms are more concerned about domestic issues, such as health care, education and the environment (37%) compared to all voters (29%).

Survey: The Bottom Line

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Although we are still a year away from the 2012 elections, these data suggest Walmart Moms are once again a key sub‐group that candidates should listen to as they run for office.

As we have seen in the past, these moms can be moved and they can switch positions as election season wears on. In May 2010, Walmart Moms approved of the job President Obama was doing and were split on their choice for Congress. But by November, Walmart Moms eventually broke with their 2008 Democratic allegiances and pulled the lever for Republicans.

The 2012 election begins with these moms exhibiting some similar patterns – they are once again split on their partisan affiliation – and with some conflicting political views that we plan to monitor as the election cycle progresses.

One thing seems clear – these moms will continue to be more economically squeezed than the broader electorate. And, while they are an important voting bloc, they may be difficult to reach as they are not paying as much attention to the national environment.

As candidates make their pitch, it will be important to clearly communicate how their policies or ideas will personally impact these women and their households for the better.

Focus Groups

2011 Focus Groups: Overview

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Just over a year out from the 2012 elections, these focus groups provide a stark insight into the day‐to‐day challenges Walmart moms face and how that impacts their political outlook.

Although these moms were squeezed last year, there is a real sense that life is that much worse and the economic strain is taking its toll. They describe making many sacrifices to balance their household budget and make ends meet. Every week is another crisis for these moms and they wonder when it is going to end. Their concern is literally how to make it to next week and how to find $20 for gas. In glaring contrast to their own lives, these moms perceive their elected officials as elites untouched by the crisis, who have done nothing to solve the problem and who avoid any kind of accountability for themselves or the country's fiscal crisis.

These moms are jaded by the political process and disappointed in their leaders. They are looking for a strong president who will act with passion and conviction. They want both compromise and toughness. They want both optimism and "straight talk" about what can be done. They want representatives who understand their concerns and the hardships they endure every day. But, they do not feel they are getting any of this. As such, they are faced with the dilemma of how to vote next year and what impact, if any, their vote will have in helping make their lives better.

This initial exploration of what matters to Walmart moms and what they are looking for from their elected officials suggests that they may once again be a critical "swing voter" group. Few of these moms have made up their mind on how they will vote next year and they seem to be open to hearing from both sides. In fact, few can cite much detail about Congress, including Congressional leaders. The challenge for candidates running for office is how to prove to these moms that they can deliver what they promise and have a positive bearing on these women's lives.

Frustrated, Discouraged, Squeezed

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Walmart Moms are living on tight budgets and growing more frustrated as they struggele with day-to-day concerns. They're also resourceful and try to stay hopeful and better their lives through creative means.

The economy and jobs may be top of mind for most of the country right now, but Walmart Moms are living the budget squeeze every single day.

Walmart moms in Orlando, Manchester and Des Moines describe the very personal and continual struggle to make ends meet in their households.  Around each of these focus group tables, mom after mom tells of layoffs in the family, hours cut back and frozen wages compounded by the increasing cost of living. They detail the specific measures they have taken to find extra pennies and stretch their budget as much as possible:  cutting back on cable television, shopping in bulk at the beginning of the month when a paycheck comes in, planning trips to minimize gas usage, couponing, searching sale racks and no longer taking vacations.

These moms are frustrated, discouraged and struggling.

"Depressing," "discouraged," "confusing," "scary," "disappointing" and "sour" are terms that are thrown out when asked how they feel about the way things are going in the country right now. These moms explain that it seems as though the country's economic strife is getting worse, not better. They do not believe media reports that claim unemployment is down or the economy is improving because they are not seeing any evidence of that in their personal lives. These moms have no confidence the government and their elected officials are going to improve the situation.  Moreover, these moms simply do not trust politicians who say things are getting better.

The economy and jobs may be top of mind for most of the country right now, but Walmart Moms are living the budget squeeze every single day.

Walmart moms in Orlando, Manchester and Des Moines describe the very personal and continual struggle to make ends meet in their households.  Around each of these focus group tables, mom after mom tells of layoffs in the family, hours cut back and frozen wages compounded by the increasing cost of living. They detail the specific measures they have taken to find extra pennies and stretch their budget as much as possible:  cutting back on cable television, shopping in bulk at the beginning of the month when a paycheck comes in, planning trips to minimize gas usage, couponing, searching sale racks and no longer taking vacations.

These moms are frustrated, discouraged and struggling.

"Depressing," "discouraged," "confusing," "scary," "disappointing" and "sour" are terms that are thrown out when asked how they feel about the way things are going in the country right now. These moms explain that it seems as though the country's economic strife is getting worse, not better. They do not believe media reports that claim unemployment is down or the economy is improving because they are not seeing any evidence of that in their personal lives. These moms have no confidence the government and their elected officials are going to improve the situation.  Moreover, these moms simply do not trust politicians who say things are getting better.

These women feel like they have lost control over their own situations, are living on the edge.

Moms in Orlando, New Hampshire and Des Moines describe the angst and uncertainty they feel every day with respect to their economic situation. None of them think things are going to improve anytime in the near future and many are continually playing "catch‐up" when they fall behind on bills.  Even those moms who are not living paycheck to paycheck still feel "on‐hold" until the economy gets better.  While some try to save a bit toward retirement or their kids' education, even working moms worry either they or their husbands could lose their job at any moment.

Moms are facing day‐to‐day concerns, but they are stressed about the long term, as well.

While current economic conditions trump other issues, these moms are still very focused on the quality of education and the cost of college.

Moms tell us they worry about how they are going to pay for their kids' college education on a daily basis, even though their children may be as young as one or two years old.  Other moms fret over health care and the financial ruin a catastrophic illness could cause.  Notably, very few moms mention social issues – the focus is all economic.

While the stories are depressing, moms are resourceful and try to stay personally hopefully.

These moms are honest about the level of their frustration.  One woman in Orlando remarks, "If I go to the grocery store one more time and see the price of milk has gone up, I'll just scream!" But, despite the constant grind, most moms are trying to stay positive, focusing on their blessings:  that they have at least one income in the home, they have the love of their family, and faith in God. And, several moms are getting creative in their efforts to cope and find additional sources of income: more overtime at work, taking on second and third jobs, donating blood, having their children collect aluminum cans.

Banks and consumers get most of the blame for the current economic situation.

Several moms point the finger of blame at Wall Street, the banks and their irresponsible lending practices, pinpointing the economic crash around the fall of 2008. And, they are frustrated that while banks were bailed out, no one is helping regular families like theirs. Other moms actually point the finger back at consumers in general (and themselves), noting that for so many years so many people have lived beyond their means, running up credit, buying homes they could not afford; and finally it has all caught up to us. Several in each group note Obama "inherited" a difficult economic climate, but few pointed an angry finger at former President Bush, or other elected officials.

Although political leaders are not blamed, they are held responsible for not doing more to address the situation.

While few moms blame President Obama or Congress for our economic unraveling, they are frustrated and fed up that more has not been done in Washington to deal with the problem and get us back on track.  Many women note the problem is "urgent" yet leaders in Washington do not seem to be acting with much urgency. As moms discuss this, they say it is because politicians are not personally affected by the situation – they are insulated from kind of problems these moms deal with every day.

Implications on Candidate Choice

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Some impatient with Obama, but not that familiar with the Republican field.

Walmart moms want and expect more strength from their president.

Most moms are willing to admit that three years is not a long time to expect the economy to turn around. They also acknowledge that President Obama alone cannot fix the situation. However, there is some frustration — even among moms who voted for him in 2008 — that President Obama has not shown enough leadership. They explain that the urgency and importance of the country's situation requires steadfast decision‐making and a leader who will hold Congress accountable and responsible for getting things done and stop the constant partisan bickering.

There are mixed opinions on whether to give the President another four years, although few show real animosity.

Across the three locations moms are fairly evenly split as to their voting decision in 2012.  Some want to extend President Obama's term and give him another four years to keep working at the country's big problems. Others are not so sure, noting that he speaks well and has "brilliant" ideas, but he has achieved few accomplishments that would motivate them to vote for him again.  Few express any real hostility toward the President. Instead there is a sense of disappointment or indifference towards him — they see him as having lost his passion and they in turn have lost their passion for him.

Despite some hesitations about re‐electing President Obama, few are closely following the Republican presidential primary contest.

Moms in Orlando struggle to cite any of the Republican candidates — a couple mention Mitt Romney, one mom identifies Herman Cain, another muses whether one of the candidates is Rick Perry and one woman wonders if Ron Paul is running as a Republican.  As might be expected, awareness is greater in Manchester, and it is most elevated in Des Moines.  But in no state are all (or even most) of the candidates named, or do they seem to have clear images.

Whether they end up voting for President Obama or the Republican candidate, Walmart moms want a leader who will take charge and follow through on convictions.

These moms tell us they want a president with "passion" and someone with a "backbone" who will stand up for what he/she believes in. They see this as the only way a president can start fixing the economy, creating jobs and dealing with other big issues like affordable college and health care. Some acknowledge that President Obama came into office with passion and ideas, but his actions have not backed up the rhetoric or the intentions.

Hold Do-Nothing Congress Accountable

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These moms don't see anything being accomplished in Washington, DC and want their leaders to come together to address the country's problems.

Walmart moms are unable to recall a single congressional accomplishment.

When asked their thoughts on Congress and what their elected officials have achieved over the last couple of years, one woman facetiously comments, "Well, they've wasted a lot of time." This remark is greeted with nodding heads and similar murmurs that Congress just simply gets nothing done. One Orlando mom likens it to "playing dodge ball," explaining that they just throw the issues at each other, play the blame game and constantly avoid dealing with the real problems. Similarly, a Des Moines woman calls them "childish."

They also know little about Congressional leaders or the policy agenda.

Few know John Boehner or Nancy Pelosi. Those who do recognize the names have only a superficial impression, which tends to be mostly negative.  Similarly, these moms offer little detail about legislation being considered in Congress, the President's jobs package, health care reform or the debt ceiling debate.

Blame for inaction is wide‐spread.

These moms view Republicans and Democrats as equally to blame and equally responsible for the lack of action or accomplishment. However, President Obama does not come out of this conversation unscathed. Some moms point again to his lack of strong leadership in making the two sides come together or his failure to use his power as President to push through his policy agenda and make things happens. Despite this, moms also want to see "compromise" between the President and Democrats and Republicans in Congress.

Although a do‐nothing Congress is not a new concept, our dire circumstances exacerbate perceptions.

Most moms acknowledge that Congress often engages in partisan bickering, with each side trying to block the other's legislation, or insisting on earmarks for pet projects. But, they explain that in our current times, when economic strife is so prevalent, the inability of Congress to compromise and work together is magnified and perceived as all the more insulting to these moms.

The debt ceiling debate reinforced the idea that Washington needs to be held accountable.

Although few moms followed the summer debate closely, the main takeaway seems to be further disgust with how their elected officials choose to conduct themselves and the country's business. A few comment on the disrespectful tone taken towards the President at times, while most hone in on the harsh reality that while they are struggling to balance their household budgets, politicians get away with running up debt.  More than one mom comments on how they cannot just call up their credit card company and get their debt limit raised.

Walmart moms appeal to their leaders to compromise and come together.

Throughout the groups, any discussion about Congress or addressing the country's problems leads back to the same conclusion: we have to work together to get things done. These moms want Republicans and Democrats to put their partisan differences aside and put the country first. They see no way forward and no hope for solution without serious compromise on both sides of the aisle.

Feel Leaders Are Out-Of-Touch

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There is a feeling that leaders don't understand what the day-to-day lives of these women and their families are like and that their leaders are elitists.

Most moms say they will vote next year, but several wonder if it will really make a difference.

Whether it is a vote for president or their member of Congress, these Walmart moms tend to question just how their vote will help improve their personal situation. While some feel more connected to their Congressional vote because it may help impact local issues, such as the quality of education in their school districts, others feel disconnected and jaded by the process.

The big problem is that these moms believe their leaders are elitist and out‐of‐touch.

Across all three groups, Walmart moms say the same thing: politicians in Washington do not understand the challenges I face every day. They have no understanding what a common family has to go through to make ends meet. These moms perceive elected officials as coming from a position of privilege that enables them to run for office. And, once elected, these elitists are then the recipients of more perks and privileges that come with the power of the office, further insulating them from the harsh reality that most "commoners" face every day.

Moreover, these moms say no one is holding Congress' accountable.

Moms have little respect for the work ethic displayed by Congress. They wonder why their representatives get to go on vacation and they cannot afford to. These moms may not have a solution, but they know that whatever Congress is doing is not working. There is no sense that Congressional spending is limited and there never will be until the politicians themselves are personally impacted.

Walmart moms challenge their elected officials: take a walk in my shoes.

In one focus group after another we heard the same taunt from these moms: "Have one of these Washington politicians spend a day in my life!" One woman suggests they should go on Undercover Boss, living the life of an average American who has to pay monthly bills, meet mortgage payments, put money away for their children's college education and put food on the table every night.

Focus Groups: The Bottom Line

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The Walmart moms we spoke to in these focus groups are frustrated with the state of the country, their personal economic situation and what they perceive to be a lack of action and accountability in Washington, DC to address these problems.

Whether at the presidential or Congressional level, these moms believe their elected officials are out‐of‐touch and unable to comprehend the challenges they face.  While Walmart moms are working hard every day to balance their household budget and make ends meet, they see politicians in Washington frittering away time and money, with little concern for accountability.

Any candidate running for office in 2012, courting the votes of Walmart moms, is going to have to bring a convincing case that once elected they will get something done and that "something" will have a positive, tangible impact these moms can personally feel in their lives.