Walmart Moms' Final Vote Decision
Key findings from a national survey of actual voters conducted on election night.
On behalf of Walmart, Public Opinion Strategies and Momentum Analysis conducted national election night (11/6/12) surveys among N=1,600 voters (margin of error +2.5%) and N=432 Walmart Mom voters (margin of error +4.7%). Walmart Moms are defined as women voters with children age 18 or younger living at home and who shop at Walmart at least once a month.
Reactions To The Third Presidential Debate
On behalf of Walmart, Public Opinion Strategies and Momentum Analysis conducted a dial session of 20 Walmart Moms during the third presidential debate and two break-out discussion groups following the debate. (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 dial session and discussion groups were conducted in Orlando, FL on
October 22, 2012.
Reactions To The Second Presidential Debate
On behalf of Walmart, Public Opinion Strategies and Momentum Analysis conducted a dial session of 20 Walmart Moms during the presidential debate and two break-out discussion groups following the debate. (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 dial session and discussion groups were conducted in suburban Milwaukee, WI on October 16, 2012.
Reactions To The First Presidential Debate
On behalf of Walmart, Public Opinion Strategies and Momentum Analysis conducted a dial session of 30 Walmart Moms during the presidential debate and three break-out discussion groups following the debate, with one group among Latina Walmart Moms only. (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).
Focus Groups Background (July/August 2012)
On behalf of Walmart, Public Opinion Strategies and Momentum Analysis conducted six focus groups of Walmart Moms (defined as female voters with children age 18 or younger at home, who shopped at Walmart at least once in the past month). The groups took place over three weeks from July 30-August 15, 2012.
Week 1: July 30: Denver, CO & July 31: Phoenix, AZ
Week 2: Aug 8: Milwaukee, WI & Aug 9: Suburban Detroit, MI.
Week 3: Aug 14: Columbus, OH & Aug 15: Raleigh, NC
This memo highlights our key findings across these six groups. Additionally, we have prepared a digital video file with a series of participant quotations that are also provided on pages 6-11 of this document.
Please click here to view comments from Walmart Moms.
Focus Groups Background (June 2012)
On behalf of Walmart, Public Opinion Strategies and Momentum Analysis conducted two focus groups of Walmart Moms (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 among a mixed group of moms in Richmond, VA and a group of Latina moms in Las Vegas, NV on June 6, 2012.
Walmart Mom Voter Online Discussion Background (April 2012)
On behalf of Walmart, Public Opinion Strategies and Momentum Analysis conducted an online discussion group among 29 Walmart Moms who were recruited from five key states: FL, NV, OH, PA & VA.
The session took place over three days (April 16‐18, 2012). Walmart Moms are defined as voters with children age 18 or younger living at home and who shop at Walmart at least once per month.
This research highlights our key findings, with a series of participant quotations provided in the Testimonials section below.
Walmart Moms' Final Vote Decision
President Obama won all female voters in this survey by 12 points (55% Obama/43% Romney), compared to his narrow margin among all voters (50% Obama/48% Romney) and swing voter Walmart Moms (50% Obama/48% Romney).
Romney won Independent voters 50% to 42% and Independent Walmart Moms 52% to 45%. But, this wasn't enough to tip the scales. Instead, among Walmart Moms bigger margins came from non-White Moms (84% Obama/13% Romney), younger Moms age 18-39 (56% to 42%), unmarried Moms (70% to 28%), Moms with no college education (58% to 40%), and lower income Moms (59% to 38%).
Across all our focus groups, these issues were consistently cited as Walmart Moms' primary concerns. This was confirmed in our survey with 42% of Moms saying the economy was the most important issue in deciding their vote for President, and 14% saying it was jobs. One-quarter cited health care (25%), and 9% said education was the deciding reason. Interestingly, social issues were a factor for some Obama and Romney-voting moms (pro-choice on abortion 7%, pro-life on abortion 6%, and gay marriage 6%), but these ultimately ranked lower in the overall picture.
Walmart Moms who said the economy was the deciding factor opted for Romney (66%) rather than Obama (33%). Meanwhile, Walmart Moms who cared most about health care sided with Obama (68% to 31%), as did Moms who said education was their most important issue.
Just 15% of voters and 16% of Walmart Moms say they made their final decision for President in the last two weeks of October or later. The president was leading by two points among all voters (50% to 48%) and lagging with Walmart Moms (48% to 51%) among the vast majority who made up their mind by mid-October. However, he broadened his lead among late decider voters (49% to 44%), and very decidedly clinched Walmart Moms who made their decision in the final stages of the race (62% to 33%).
Also, interestingly, early voting Walmart Moms broke to Romney. He earned a six-point advantage with all early voting Walmart Moms, while the President won Election Day voting moms by four points.
In their vote for Congress, Walmart Moms chose the Democratic candidate (52%) over the Republican candidate (48%). Again, this is a smaller margin than among all women who voted Democratic by 12 points (55% Democrat/43% Republican).
Walmart Moms didn't always blame Obama for the current economic crisis, but they felt very acutely that recovery was not reaching them quickly enough. And, while they thought Governor Romney might be better on the economy, they also had reservations about switching course.
Both candidates worked hard to reach women generally, and moms specifically. These election night results demonstrate how tight the race was and how women, and these Walmart Moms, helped determine Obama's victory.
Reactions To The Third
Most women say they saw a more confident Obama this evening who had more experience than Mitt Romney on the issues discussed (although they acknowledge this is only natural after four years as President).
Indeed, most of the women we spoke with in Orlando this evening noted that President Obama and Governor Romney agreed on more than they expected. So, for those who say the debate made a difference, it was based on the overall impression they got from each candidate – as noted above, most saw Obama as more confident, but some saw strength in Romney's presence. That said, several women said they were looking for a "wow" moment from either candidate that might help seal their vote decision, yet they found none forthcoming.
When the candidates discussed foreign policy through a domestic lens, we saw these women respond positively with their dials. This was borne out throughout the debate, when both candidates used language such as other countries "taking responsibility for their future," or that "they want the same things we want," or talking about a focus on our own economy.
In the breakout groups, Walmart moms also found mentions of gender equality particularly memorable. They appreciated the discussion about education, specifically the concept that our children need to be better educated for the United States to be competitive in the world. Ultimately, while Walmart Moms found the debate interesting and informative, most say domestic issues drive their vote. They said that while foreign policy is very important, and they want their children to be safe, the economy and education trump it as they assess their voting priorities this year.
Walmart moms noticed this debate had fewer angry exchanges, either between the candidates themselves or with the moderator than that of the Town Hall debate last week. While some felt Obama successfully and clearly challenged Romney at times, few moms felt the candidates were too confrontational. And, several said they preferred this tone of conduct.
Even though there have been three debates, some moms said they could still change their minds between now and November 6. Despite this evening's debate being focused on foreign policy, moms still wanted to hear both candidates' plans for creating jobs. These moms worried whether they could afford four more years of Obama, but were unsure if Romney had a real plan to help them. When asked where they would go for information, a few said they would check the candidate websites or go online.
Obama high points
- Criticizing Romney's foreign policy strategy.
- "You have to be clear about where you stand and what you mean…" This led into talking about protecting minorities and promoting gender equality.
- Syrians have to determine their own future. We will support the opposition.
- In these countries in turmoil, help them protect civil liberties and the status of women. Says many of them have the same economic concerns for their children and their lives. Want to start rebuilding their economy.
- Talking about class sizes and how education improves our worldwide competitiveness.
- Sending troops into war.
- Have to pull out of Afghanistan responsibly and take care of things at home. Focus on care for veterans when they come home.
- We need to be tough on China and have them meet basic international standards.
Romney high points
- Do not want to get dragged into military involvement in Syria and want to make sure they we make friends with the people who do come into power.
- Want the young people in these countries to know peace and know they have a bright future.
- We need to have a strong economy and military, and sequestration is a bad idea. Need to strengthen military and economy long term in order to confront future challenges we can't even predict.
- Providing his five-point jobs plan.
- Likes teachers and supports schools.
- Talking about Iran and how we should tighten sanctions and shun their diplomats.
- A nuclear Iran is not acceptable to us.
What do you remember most about what Barack Obama said during this evening's debate?
"He is a strong foreign policy leader looking out 100% for Americans."
— Marysal R.
"Wants to make America stronger in the economy, education, and taking care of our veterans."
— Mary Ann B.
"Mitt Romney is changing his mind all the time."
— Susan H.
"He speaks about facts and doesn't seem to waiver in his opinions or plans."
— Jaime H.
"Bringing more jobs here."
— Lisette G.
"He will listen to Americans. Teach other countries to fight for themselves. He wants to bring jobs over to the U.S. Focus on America!"
— Molly N.
"About the war and how our money is spent."
— Sherri T.
"He kept attacking Romney before he would answer the questions and kept saying that they got bin Laden."
— Kimberly R.
"Bringing jobs and the economy back up to where we should be."
— Danielle L.
"That Romney wasn't truthful."
— Lori A.
"Reduce involvement in other countries and focus on making America stronger economically, with research, education, and energy programs."
— Teri B.
"He will not cut Medicare. He will support our military and veterans. He will create new jobs by offering incentives for U.S. companies to stay in the U.S. He will create more opportunities for teachers/education. Students will be able to learn more on STEM studies."
— Maria C.
"About getting the military out of Iraq."
— Karen M.
"Obama said he would work on pushing for education and hire more teachers."
— Maria C.
"That he laid out a clear plan on foreign policy and stood firm on the decisions he made, whether they were favorable or not."
— Tameka H.
"That the government will ‘ask' the wealthy to pay more of their ‘fair share.'"
— Carla H.
"That we'll work with other countries to get where we need to be."
— Melanie K.
"He is committed to ensuring that America remains strong militarily and will support our allies in times of need. However, he recognizes the need to build a stronger America domestically."
— Lya H.
"What stands out to me is his continual outlining of plans for the future and how they tie into the past four years of work done thus far. This included a focus on cooperation with other countries, focus on building a stronger nation internally (schools and jobs), and focus on financial stimulus (taxing higher income)."
— Jessica R.
"How much he still blames the old administration and the Republicans for a situation that he had four years to fix. I did not appreciate when he said that he did not apologize. He did. He bowed in front of the king of another country — a Muslim country. Also Obama diminishes our country. Obama did not improve anything. He had the power — the Congress, the House, and he did health care that nobody likes."
— Graciela D.
What do you remember most about what Mitt Romney said during this evening's debate?
"How he can change the world and make the U.S. stronger."
— Marysal R.
"He was going to create many jobs, but I am not sure how he plans to do this."
— Mary Ann B.
"We need a strong military so we don't fail during our next security surprise (terrorists)."
— Susan H.
"He seems like a complete hypocrite."
— Jaime H.
"Wants to bring peace."
— Lisette G.
"'World peace.' He wants to build our economy, balance the budget. He ‘knows' how to lead."
— Molly N.
"Same [About the war and how our money is spent]."
— Sherri T.
"He would keep saying what he did in Massachusetts and what Obama said wasn't true about what he said."
— Kimberly R.
"Education reform and making it more of a spotlight in our future."
— Danielle L.
"Important to be a strong leader and that Obama showed weakness."
— Lori A.
"Trying to get China to become more of a fair partner with America and work together."
— Teri B.
"Romney promised not to cut off food stamps. He will not stop help/military to Israel. He will create more jobs/ better economy/ strengthen our budget."
— Maria C.
"Military and getting it stronger."
— Karen M.
"Romney touched on longtime subjects, specifically jobs in this country and bringing more jobs into this country."
— Maria C.
"His details on his plans for the economy."
— Tameka H.
"That Iran is our biggest threat to national security, and he would continue drone strikes in the Middle East."
— Carla H.
"That he's changed his views once again to tell the American people what they want to hear."
— Melanie K.
"He is in support of what the President has done with regards to foreign policy. I heard a lot of action verbs but not much description. [He] will balance the budget."
— Lya H.
"What I am left with after hearing Romney speak is the feeling of constantly defending, backpedaling, and attacking. I felt like it was a lot of fluff, and I couldn't get a true picture of how things would be done. It seemed like he would just say he could make it happen and not elaborate on how."
— Jessica R.
"His attack on how we should (government) buy companies. His vision about a proud America. He laid down a plan and I know that he will. He said that he will get us out of this horrible recession. He said that he will repeal Obamacare. I like that. I believe he will."
— Graciela D.
Reactions To The Second
A handful gave Obama the win, just a couple called Romney the victor, and the rest were firm in their estimate that it was a tie. These women describe their dilemma in assessing the two men:
Governor Romney seemed to have ideas for how the next four years could be better (five-point plan), but offered no specifics and did not connect on a personal level with these women. They describe him as "cocky," and "arrogant;" these women do not feel like they can trust him.
President Obama came across as more personable and trustworthy. They describe him as "confident," and say he "connected" with them better than Romney. But, they say they still did not hear him explain how he would make things better over the next four years.
A criticism leveled at both candidates is that their answers on virtually all the topics covered were too general – but especially on the economy. As one woman stated of Romney, "I've heard about the five-point plan, tell me more about how it's going to be done." Others chimed in that Obama did not provide any details, either.
On virtually every exchange where the candidates challenged one another, these suburban Milwaukee moms dialed down. They told us that while they understood the need for a candidate to correct the other's statements about him, they saw it as a waste of time. Indeed, even when candidates shared personal stories the dials moved very little and these moms tell us it's because they were wasting time that could have been spent explaining what each of them plans to do (and how).
Milwaukee moms say there were brief periods where the candidates did connect. For example, in the discussion on equal pay some noted Governor Romney's answer on making sure there is flexibility in the workplace. Others pointed to President Obama's position on Planned Parenthood and contraception. A few appreciated the discussion around energy and the environment as they think about resources for the future generation. And some thought it a powerful moment when Obama took offense at the accusation he took the Benghazi attack lightly.
But, for the most part, they say the issues they care about more – education (both early childhood and college), the economy and health care – were not covered in nearly enough depth or with enough specificity. These women nod almost unanimously as one woman explains that she just did not hear anything from either candidate that she could "take home" and know it would truly help her and her family. And when asked if the candidates were trying to speak directly to them, moms instead agreed the two were "talking to each other."
Obama high points
- Job retraining, importance of education
- Energy efficiency
- Romney's math just doesn't add up — he's not giving the details
- The wealthy should pay a bit more in taxes
- Solving inequality in the workplace, followed by comments on student loan debt
- Contraception and mammograms for women. Health care is a vital issue for women in the workplace and it affects how the do their jobs
- Path to citizenship for children of immigrants
- Telling Romney you can't make national security a political issue
- Said that he's the President and so the fault lies with him, not Clinton
- Banning assault weapons, gun control
- There are obviously some jobs that we aren't going to get back, but what we do want back are the high-paying, innovative jobs
Romney high points
- Energy independence and the Keystone pipeline
- "No taxes on personal savings"
- Employers need to find flexible work schedules for women
- Focus on small business rather than big business
- Immigration issues — children of immigrants should have path to citizenship
- Positive outcomes of having two-parent homes
- Making U.S. more attractive to business; finding ways to stop jobs from going out of the country to places like China
What do you remember most about what Barack Obama said during this evening's debate?
"He didn't quite give specific details about how to fix things or why he didn't make improvements these past four years."
"He's from a single mom who worked hard for two kids to help them."
"I liked when he discussed health care benefits for women and contraceptives. I agree with his decision."
"Tax cuts, energy, immigration reform, oil, becoming self-sufficient as a country with natural resources."
"That he looks many years forward in regards to natural energy uses."
"What he's done so far during his administration."
"I agree with the Dream Act. I love what he said and has done for equal pay for women."
"President Obama's commitment to the middle class and specific points he made regarding his policies."
"Women should have equal pay opportunity. People should not have semi-automatic weapons. Really no clear plan to grow except hire math and science teachers."
"Responsibility is his — he makes mistakes, so blame things on him. He seems human. He does what he says he will do and sticks to his policies, campaign issues. Will help the middle class and not give big breaks to the richest."
"He reviewed what has been accomplished over the past four years and his plans for what this country needs. He also took responsibility for the deaths of diplomats."
"Government not choosing healthcare for women and contraception coverage."
"That Romney has no plan for where the tax cuts will come from and that Romney will keep the wealthy having better benefits."
"Supports education and pathways to affordable education, committed to increasing tax rates to those in higher tax brackets, importance of family values."
"Have the wealthier pay a little more. Invest more in education."
"How he reinforced what Mitt Romney said about the 47%. I also remember that there is a ‘fundamental' difference in their beliefs."
"Gun control — harder laws."
"To increase gas efficiency in cars in the next few years."
"Commitment to education. Energy — making energy more efficient to lower costs."
"How passionate he is about healthcare and the middle class."
What do you remember most about what Mitt Romney said during this evening's debate?
"He mentioned his 5-point plan on numerous occasions."
"His 5-point plan to help the economy, and across the board tax cuts."
"Boosting up the economy with jobs to come here as manufacturers. I think this plan will help with finances and stability."
"He is a good guy. Tax cuts, his top 5 — energy, helping small business, drilling in Alaska, and self-deportation."
"That he wants to utilize coal as a natural resource, not ignore it."
"What he wants to do, but he never backed it up with how it would get done."
"I kept feeling like he avoided/did not answer some questions — he never said how he would create jobs. He gave his 5-point plan one or two questions late and never talked about equal pay for women, only flexibility."
"Gov. Romney's tax plan — wanting to lower tax rates and eliminate certain taxes (e.g. capital gains). Also his comments about women and creating a flexible work environment."
"He can get the economy going. He has a 5-point plan to get things going. He is pro small business. Growth has slowed over the past four years."
"Create even playing field for jobs (from China). A lot of blame and defensiveness. The great way he was successful as governor — education, health care, balanced budget."
"Romney has some plans for this country, but spent more time being negative and came across as slimy to me."
"His thoughts on guns and the importance of things starting in the home. How to ensure jobs directly out of college."
"He has a 5-point plan for his Presidency, and that Obama had a chance to make his changes but didn't."
"Supports tax cuts, self-deportation of illegal immigrants, committed to reducing the nation's deficit."
"Tax cuts for middle class. Bring in pipeline from Canada. Stop China cheating."
"I remember that he brought up the Fast and Furious gun campaign, as I want to learn more about that. But mostly I remember finding him brash and untrustworthy."
"Cut taxes for the middle class. Education. Affordable."
"That China manipulates its currency."
"Middle class being crushed and his 5-point plan to get the country back on track. Mentions he is a man of faith."
"Just how much he likes to hear himself talk. I think I got to know more about him but can't say that anything stands out."
Reactions To The First
On behalf of Walmart, Public Opinion Strategies and Momentum Analysis conducted a dial session of 30 Walmart Moms during the presidential debate and three break-out discussion groups following the debate, with one group among Latina Walmart Moms only. (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 dial session and discussion groups were conducted in Las Vegas, NV on October 3, 2012.
None thought Obama won this evening. Mitt Romney’s image climbed 20 points over the course of the evening, while Obama’s moved just five.
Many of these women came into tonight’s debate having somewhat tuned out Mitt Romney. After seeing him this evening several are now re-engaged and want to learn more about him.
On the other hand, they were somewhat disappointed with President Obama’s performance. They do not believe he made the case for how another four years will be different or better.
As moms, these participants did not hear anything beyond education that truly resonated with them. Latina Moms in particular say the candidates often "talked over" their heads and they did not hear them discussing moms' issues or the Latina community in general. Some moms also say they struggled to see a difference between the candidates' plans.
Many say this was the only issue on which the candidates were able to connect with them as moms. Some say they heard Obama wants to add more teachers, while others heard Romney say he wants to have more qualified/quality teachers. A few moms wondered how Romney's voucher plan would affect public schools.
These moms note a discussion about women’s issues was lacking this evening. They wanted to hear the candidates discuss their positions – and not just on the social issues, also about equal pay for women. Similarly, immigration is a topic that some noted for its absence – especially (but not only) in the Latina mom discussion.
When either candidate talked about the need to help the middle class we saw dial lines climb this evening. And, in the discussion sessions we heard some moms talk about how Romney seemed more attuned to this tonight; although several still see Obama as more in touch with average Americans. (A few noted Romney’s "47%" comments.)
Obama Highs – Overall
- Tax breaks to companies creating jobs in America
- Not giving tax breaks to companies shipping jobs overseas
- Returning tax rates on the highest level income to Clinton-Administration level
- Healthcare – investing in preventative care
Obama Highs – Among Latinas
- Keeping student loan rates low
- Hiring more teachers
- Lower prescription drug costs
- Romney wants to repeal Obamacare and Dodd-Frank, but he has "secret plans"
- Providing group rates for the uninsured
- Preventing insurance companies from "jerking around people"
Romney Highs – Overall
- Less bureaucracy in education, "education as cornerstone of economy"
- Liked his 5 specific points on how to improve the economy
- Protecting small business
- "I will lower taxes on middle income families"
- Deficit as a "moral issue," hurting future generations (much higher with non-latinas)
- States should be able to come up with healthcare plan that works best for them
- Beginning of role of government segment was highly rated
- Protect life and liberty which means maintaining a strong military
- Protecting tolerance and religious freedom
- Taking care of the least of us
Romney Highs – Among Latinas
- Deficit is crushing future generations
- Keeping America strong, not cutting our military
Focus Groups (July/Aug)
Although focus groups are not projectable to the population at large, what we heard in these discussion sessions was strikingly similar across all six locations and tracks very closely with the various state and national polls released during our three-week tour. This race is very tight with voters trying to size up each candidate as they perceive them: the relatable personality of Obama but his less-than-stellar job performance versus Romney's distant personality but his proven track record in business.
These Walmart Moms are planning to tune into the convention speeches, but even more important to them are the debates. That's because they are overwhelmed by negative ads they cannot trust, they do not feel they are getting enough facts to make an informed choice, and they do not feel like either candidate is really connecting with them on the issues that matter most: the economy, education, and health care.
Thus, they are eagerly looking forward to seeing President Obama and Mitt Romney present themselves and their plans at the conventions, then promote and defend them "on the spot" during the debates.
We'll be tracking Walmart Moms reactions to the debates. Until then, here's a field guide to what these moms are thinking right now and what they want the candidates to talk about and address on the trail.
Moms say Obama has under-delivered, but recognize the difficulties he
When asked to describe how they feel about President Obama, Walmart Moms say "dissatisfied," "unhappy," and "disappointed." Several women explain their "mixed feelings" about him, saying they had high hopes, but feel he has left them with a lot of "broken promises" and fallen short in delivering.
Lack of improvement in the economy is the primary complaint, but there is also a good deal of angst around his health care reform legislation, with several women feeling very uncertain about what it will mean for them and their families in the future. There is not a lot of confidence that another four years will result in things getting better.
Despite these frustrations some say Obama was "overwhelmed" by the situation he took on and that he had "good intentions." Some point to Congress as part of the problem, citing lack of action and intense partisanship; others say four years is not enough time to fix the economy.
Moms know little about Mitt Romney and do not feel connected to him.
These Walmart Moms tell us they know what they are getting if they re-elect President Obama: more of the same. However, that does not mean Mitt Romney is the obvious alternative.
On the one hand, they see his successful business record and say that is the kind of president the country needs right now — that his success is "The American Dream." On the other hand, they worry about how little they know about him.
Part of the reason Walmart Moms feel uncertain about Mitt Romney is because they are not hearing any specifics from him with respect to how he would handle the economy and make things better.
But, in all locations, these moms do not feel much of a personal connection to him. Some say he is "not personable." Others discuss how he seems "polished," "slick," or "out-of-touch." They do not get the impression he understands the middle class – some invite him to "walk a mile in my shoes."
Moms are interested to know more about Ryan.
In the week following Romney's running mate announcement, we spoke with Walmart Moms in Columbus and Raleigh. They had all seen the announcement and know Paul Ryan's name, but they say it's still too soon to know much about him.
They think he looks young, they know he is physically fit, and some note he is conservative; one or two moms in Raleigh mention his positions on Medicare. Initial impressions suggest some of these moms find Ryan personable and they wonder (hopefully) if that will help give Romney a warmer presence.
These moms visibly grapple with their vote decision – they'd even combine candidates or tickets.
The crux of the internal debate each mom is having about how to vote is whether to opt for a candidate who is warm, approachable and known, but who has not delivered what they expected (Obama); or choose a candidate who is not personable or relatable, but who has a business track record that could help turn things around (Romney).
Interestingly, as these Walmart Moms discuss the candidates some reach the conclusion that they would like to combine qualities of each to produce the president they want. Others talk about switching running mates so that each ticket has a Republican and Democratic representative — they suggest this might result in "things actually getting done" since the players would have to compromise.
The candidates' families are very important to these moms.
These Walmart Moms know both candidates are family men and they look to their family life as an indicator of integrity. They want to see a "family unit" and togetherness because it gives them a sense of "stability" and "security" about that person. One woman says that seeing the Obamas on the Kiss Cam made them approachable to her children. Another says Romney's family "seems happy" and that is a sign he "may be a good dad."
The First Lady is known and liked; they are not as familiar with Ann Romney.
Walmart Moms point to Michelle Obama's work on combating obesity and promoting healthy eating for kids (nutrition is an issue several moms worry about for their children on a daily basis). However, while some know Ann Romney is a stay-at-home mom, only a few women know her name.
Interestingly, the reason they tend to know Ann Romney is a stay-at-home mom is because of the Hilary Rosen comments from several months ago. None can name Rosen, but some moms talk about the "she never worked a day in her life" comment.
As moms assess the race and their vote decision, it is done through the lens of the economy.
Most Walmart moms we spoke to say the economy is getting worse or staying about the same. Just a few think it is getting better. They measure this by their own personal experiences: living with parents because rent is too high; struggling to find employment; declining house values; adult children moving back in because they cannot support themselves; stretching budgets to cover the rising cost of gas and other everyday items.
After the economy, education and health care are critical issues that Walmart Moms worry about on a daily basis.
Across all groups, Walmart Moms express concern over the quality of K-12 education, and the cost of college that some are dealing with now while others see it looming on the horizon. They also describe their anxiety about the cost of health care coverage and whether they will have insurance in the near future. Some question how access to and quality of care will be affected under the President's new legislation.
Other issues may be important to these moms, but they are not priorities right now.
Notably, "women's issues" or "social issues" are not top-of-mind. When topics such as abortion, gay marriage, contraception, guns, or the environment are raised these women virtually all agree: it's not what keeps them awake at night right now, and not what is going to decide their vote in November. A Raleigh mom sums it up: "that's jewelry [women's/social issues] when you're trying to cloth yourself."
These moms are just starting to pay attention to the race.
With the exceptions of Columbus and Raleigh, most moms have not yet pro-actively sought out information on the candidates. Even those who have done some research are vague about their sources, saying only that they "went online" or "Googled" something to learn about the candidates or the issues. Just one or two say they have visited the candidates' websites and a couple mention getting information through Facebook. Most say they plan to learn more, but not right now – they think they will tune in closer to voting time.
They are trying to tune out the ads and the negativity.
Particularly in states that have already been saturated with advertising, Walmart Moms are jaded by the ads. They explain that virtually all of them are negative and cannot be trusted since much of the content is taken out of context.
Although they know to expect the negative ads, they feel bombarded by them on every television and radio channel they turn on. Some find it very "annoying," others describe them as "noise," and most say they just try to tune them out. A couple of moms in Denver even noted the relief they felt when both candidates pulled their ads for a few days following the Aurora shooting tragedy.
Moms are eagerly awaiting the debates.
Whether moms are not quite tuned in yet or they have already done some research on the candidates, what they are all really waiting for is the debates. They say the convention speeches are important and most are planning to watch. But, more compelling is the debate setting, where candidates have to answer "on the spot" to the types of questions moms would like to ask of them. As such, these moms feel they will get good insight into what each man truly cares about and stands for as he presents his point of view.
Several moms are frustrated by politics-as-usual in Washington.
Women in Denver and suburban Detroit complain about the amount of money being spent on the campaign. And, women in all of these groups complain about the partisan gridlock and lack of action in Washington. Some of these moms even say it will hardly make a difference who gets elected president in November because many of the problems are too great (the economy, the deficit) for one man to fix. One or two who feel particularly disillusioned suggest they might vote for Roseanne Barr instead of Obama or Romney.
Moms feel like they are an important voting bloc, but can't devote much time to politics.
These moms recognize their power in numbers, but most describe their busy and stressful lives. They don't think about politics/what's going on in DC on a day-to-day basis, but they do recognize that what happens has a direct impact on their lives (economy/cost of living, health care, education), and they do not feel well represented. They do not believe the presidential candidates or members of Congress are thinking about moms and families – they think most politicians are putting their own agenda first.
Moms recognize their "swing voter" status and find it difficult to make a decision.
Although some moms are undecided in their vote for the first time ever, most of the women we spoke with have a long history of being "swing voters." They say picking a candidate can be agonizing because they are rarely aligned with one side or the other on all the issues. At the end of the day, they make their voting choice based on who they think can best meet their needs/represent them as moms.
These moms are crying out for details and specifics.
Regardless the issue — whether it is the economy, education, or health care — Walmart Moms make impassioned pleas for more detailed information from both candidates. As these moms try to decide how to vote, they say their indecision is due in large part to lack of real information. They are very frustrated about not hearing any specifics from either candidate right now and that means they cannot make an informed choice.
But, they want honesty and accountability as plans are laid out.
Several moms discuss the need for accountability. They say they want to hear Obama acknowledge the poor state of the economy and that he has fallen short of his promises and their expectations. Some say they want more transparency from Romney, saying he needs to share more information about himself (both personally and professionally).
As such, when these moms ask for the candidates to lay out their vision on how to make things better over the next four years, they note that the plans should be "realistic" goals that could actually be achieved by a president during his term in office.
Keep it civil and substantial.
Walmart Moms are no different than most voters in this respect — they don't appreciate the negative tone of the race, but they know to expect it. That said, they are begging for more positivity and substance from both candidates over the next few months so they can feel hopeful and engaged in making their final decision.
The economy and jobs continue to be the overriding issue. While some believe Mitt Romney is better equipped professionally to improve economic conditions, he has not quite sealed the deal on a personal level. And, while President Obama is perceived as being more personable and warmer than Romney, they are worried about his professional shortcomings.
Thus, both candidates have work to do in connecting with these moms to win their vote.
President Obama has to make the case that he can and will do a better job in fixing the economy, while Mitt Romney has to find a way to connect on a more personal level. And, both candidates have to provide specific, realistic plans on how they can make things better for these moms and their families over the next four years.
To view the quotes listed below, please click here.
On Paul Ryan:Columbus, OH:
"I watched him when he did present him. And his little speech, I don't know, I really found him likable…He seemed personable on a level that ‘Hi, I just met you' and not that we've met personally, but I just felt like he was talking to everyone one at a time rather than a mass crowd." (Holli)
"You're kind of like, there has to be something really fantastic about him or they pulled him on for some other reason, like maybe to bump up Romney's likability. I don't know how I feel about it yet just because he's either really great or he's here for other reasons." (Jessica)Raleigh, NC:
"I'm pretty impressed with the fact that he started out like a scrub in Congress and worked his way up. I feel like he knows more than Romney." (Glenda)
"I was shocked that they [the Republicans] went with another controversial vice presidential candidate. …[He's controversial] because more than once he said he would do away with Medicare." (Jennifer)
On paying attention to the race / advertising / watching the debates:Suburban Milwaukee, WI:
"I usually do closer toward the race when it's progressing and getting like down to the nitty gritty…within the last two months before the election, that's when things are really picking up, when you start getting bombarded with a lot of commercials…I'm tuned in now somewhat, but as far as really, really digging into it, I am listening but I'm not completely liked tuned in 100%." (Kathy)Suburban Detroit, MI:
"It [the negative advertising] makes them look worse. When Obama did that ad about Mitt Romney's taxes—and I don't care about the man's taxes—but it was like, ‘oh he's such a liar and shame on him,' that made him look bad. And, when Mitt Romney does ads about Obama, it makes him look bad." (Niki)Columbus, OH:
"I'm still holding back. I'm not ready to get to that point yet. I think I'm waiting for all of the mess to get out of the way and for them to get really into it. … [The mess is] all the arguing, bittering back and forth at each other. I want to hear about the real information, what's on the table, what's going to go down and that doesn't happen right now. …You can watch the debates and weed out what you don't want to hear and figure out what you do want to hear. I think more of what you want to hear is happening at that point than it is right now." (Sheila)Raleigh, NC:
"I don't even pay attention to the ads…I hate ads. I get so upset with them." (Teresa C.)
"I pay more attention to the debates…I think when they debate each other face to face, that's when I clue in… [I'm looking for] truthfulness, consistency." (Teresa A.)
On being part of a key voting group: as moms / as "swing voters":Suburban Milwaukee, WI:
"We could, but I think there are far too many moms that are too busy to be able to take the time to focus on which candidate they want to vote for. Most moms — I am not one, I am lucky enough that I am at home with my children the majority of the time, when I'm not my husband is there — but most moms or grandmothers who are raising kids are you know working 40 hours a week and shuffling kids to different activities when they're older; they're making dinner, they're trying to pay the bills and hold the house down, and yeah politics is important but there is no time in their day. It's not a priority." (Angela)Suburban Detroit, MI:
"I feel like we're voting not just for just ourselves, but for what we want for our kids." (Terri)
"I kind of fall in between being a swing voter and just a general across-the-board Democrat or Republican." (Pam)Columbus, OH:
"I've become more that way [swing voter] over the years. Now, as I've gotten older things have changed in the economy. As you get older you get wiser and I want the person who I believe in their policies. I don't care which party you are if I believe in your policies." (Cathy)
Importance of the candidates' families:Suburban Milwaukee, WI:
"Really important …‘cause I think with all of us having families we like to see that family unit. The wife and the spouse and the kids at events and the wife supporting the husband, and them supporting each other actually. You know, the husband supporting the wife, the wife supporting the husband. You know the kids supporting the parents…a unit. That gives people a sense of stability and security to know that our leaders are family people with family values." (Bonnie)
"I think it is just such a reflection of that person's integrity; you know you think back to the Clintons and the cheating and Hillary…what does that say about our leader of our country if he can't even be faithful to your own wife? How are you going to be faithful to our country? I judge them, I do. Well, their values." (Dara)
About President Obama:Denver, CO:
"The fact that he is like a personable person. In other words, I've seen him out where I haven't really seen other presidents and just getting in to things that are real life. I really don't think his performance has been adequate enough as far as doing things that he said he was going to do during his time, but I'm not too sure if there are other things factoring into that, you know like time wise, issues that are coming up, tragedies, and things that kind of distract …but I think at the same time I'm still feeling a little bit impatient because we are still kind of waiting … waiting process." (Francine A.)Phoenix, AZ:
"Overwhelmed – in my eyes he walked into the Titanic and he couldn't save it. As the past goes, war equals money….back in World War 2 we were manufacturing missiles, ships and plane. The technology is so far advanced when we went to war during the Bush administration, we didn't have that manufacturing, so the economy took a hit." (Maria F.)Suburban Detroit, MI:
"Under-delivered—There was a lot of talk before he got elected, and—whether I agreed with what he was promising or not—not a lot has come of it. So, he under-delivered on what he promised. He possibly underestimated how things work in Washington because he didn't have a lot of experience with that. Possibly it is more partisan now than it has been previously, so he may have run into a wall he hadn't expected." (Karen)
"I would say understanding. I feel that he does understand a lot of lower income families—and the middle class—a little more than his opponent. But, I also don't feel that really means anything either. He can empathize with them all he wants, but it doesn't mean that he delivers." (Pam)Columbus, OH:
"…really, no matter what Obama says, it's like if he says black, they say white. And nobody will meet him half way. And you have to be able to put aside you're differences of what your party is and see what's best for the people. I just think that no politician is out there for the people. They're all out there for themselves." (Julie)Raleigh, NC:
"Frustration – I voted for President Obama. I really felt like I connected, but as time has gone by I've felt further and further away as though he did not understand exactly what was going on, where I'm from, where I live, our family, our stuff…Right now, how it is for me, when I hear President Obama talking, giving speeches, I don't feel like if he stood at the podium he could speak to me and understood what my issue were, and what my concerns were for my children. The frustration and how I feel right now is a lot of what's going on." (Cathy)
"Scapegoat – It's not just these two men. If you really realize, it's Congress who messing this thing up. These two men are just getting blamed because they are the face of it, because most people aren't politically inclined…we want to point and say ‘you are the problem,' but it's really not either one. Even if Romney is elected, he really won't be to blame either; it's Congress that can't get things settled." (Teresa A)
About Mitt Romney:Denver, CO:
"Slick - Although that's not necessarily bad. He tends to seem like he's very polished and he knows what he's doing when he's speaking and he's not able to go out and make mistakes. And his tax returns and I mean you may not like how much taxes he pays but he knows how to dot his "I"s and cross his "T"s and so he's polished - in good and bad ways. I don't think he's warm and you really [don't] get a comforting feeling from him. But he's definitely polished." (Catherine A.)
"Businessman - I was reading his accomplishments and it looks like he's gotten a lot done in putting economies back in order. Forgive me I'm forgetting where he was the Governor…but he came in and turned their economy around so that's a positive. I wish we could kind of mix the two presidents together – or you know the candidate Mitt Romney and Obama together. Because he isn't … doesn't seem very personable…you really see a lot of concern and intentions and wanting to help with Obama but you don't see a whole lot of track record, there's not a whole lot that he's accomplished." (Rebecca G)Suburban Milwaukee, WI:
"Power and wealth – I don't know, just a feeling I get from the ads, from his background. I mean that's just what I think of, and it's just kind of a sense. That's what he is putting out there. With the Olympics, how he helped to get things going. I just think it just comes across as power and wealth…I kind of look at it as a bad thing, it can switch to a bad thing as far as someone who is powerful can use it for their advantage and not help the poor." (Kristine)Suburban Detroit, MI:
"He comes off as a little rich and a little pompous like the way most folks think rich people act...how he carries himself, the suits that he wears…he needs to kind of get in touch with the people. Where Obama is—or seems to be—so in touch with the people, this one here seems to be the complete opposite." (Shannon)Columbus, OH:
"He's never been without a silver spoon, so he can't feel what the average person goes through. He's always been wealthy." (Laura)
"I think he is a good businessman and very successful at that. So I would tend to think, he should be able to enforce policies. If he could get pass the bureaucracy of the government, he should put forth good policies." (Cathy)Raleigh, NC:
"He's not going to relate to them. He is so beyond wealthy. And has these accounts offshore, and secretive, and shady. I think he's just shady. He's just this billionaire, shady kind of mess." (Teresa A.)
Personal situations/impact of the economy:Denver, CO:
"I'm 33 years old and my son and I had to move back in with my parents because I can't afford to take care of the two of us on my salary and there are no raises in sight. So it's ridiculous." (Jennifer M.)
"I left a job to go back to school to better myself and now I'm begging to get a job. I can't get a job. You're either over-qualified or you're under-qualified. I don't have my degree so I'm under-qualified or if I am just begging to get anything I'm over-qualified. I still go to school. And God bless my family because without them I wouldn't be making it day-to-day, let alone week to week." (Michelle F.)Phoenix, AZ:
"Without the jobs there is no more American Dream. I think that's what everyone is looking for, is the restoration of the American Dream. You go to college now, you graduate with a bachelor degree, can't get a job paying $11 an hour. You got these student loans, you can't pay them back, you can't work, you're living with your parents, you can't have a family, you can't buy a home. The American Dream no longer exists…people without jobs that stresses the family. There are more children abused and neglected and without a home away from their parents, higher drug and alcohol use. It's all tied down to the jobs." (Jacinda C.)Suburban Milwaukee, WI:
"I would say over the years for me with my career and my job, I'd say the amount I make now is more than I ever had, but it is far less than in how my whole budget is and that expounds to everybody. I can't imagine not having a career and trying to have a home and to have kids, you can't do it. I would say it's getting worse…the gas, everything that you do on a daily basis is so much more, it was more 2 months ago, I mean it's more than 2 months ago, it's more than a year ago. But my pay per hour or my yearly income has not gone up. And taxes aren't less. I still pay in and I'm still considered the middle class and I'd say I'm now the lower or even less than middle class." (Kristine)Suburban Detroit, MI:
"A couple things that stand out to me are unemployment and the deficit. As far as I'm concerned, the deficit is directly related to the economy. I just feel like it's a runaway train. Who's going to stop it?" (Barbara)Columbus, OH:
"I think it's my kids in the future and where they're going from today until I'm no longer here to be with them. That's important to me how they're going to be, how they're going to end up, what kind of life they're going to have, the quality of life they're going to be able to have. … As far as when they get older and when they retire what are they going to go through because of what we're going through right now? Are they going to have it good or is it going to be worst for them. I have older ones who are going through the employment process and I have little ones, I have a 5-month old, and I wonder what he's going to experience when he becomes old enough to work. … When I worked I was 14, and my 15-year old can't find a job, now you have to be 18. It's hard for him, so he's thinking what am I supposed to do? It's tough for everyone, so it's not just tough for those able to work but it's tough for those getting ready to work and who are just starting." (Sheila)Raleigh, NC:
"It used to be that you could do a lot of extracurricular things, and now you hear all about the staycations where people used to go on long trips. And now, you can't even afford to do because of either gas or tickets to anywhere cost a fortune, so you're not going anywhere. You don't get to do a lot of stuff that you once could do." (Teresa C.)
Which candidate do you trust on the economy?Suburban Milwaukee, WI:
"I'm going to say Obama just because I really don't know what Romney stands for." (Cheryl)
"I think we need a change and need someone else to fix it." (Theresa)
"I don't think Obama is making any changes, so I wouldn't want to stand behind him. I don't know much about Romney but he could bring a change which is good. But I'm still trying to decide. I like Romney because he would be a change. But proof is in the pudding with Obama and he hasn't really done anything." (Roxanne)
Advice for the candidates:Denver, CO:
For Romney: "I am going to ask for a plan of action. I want you to hit everything you know that's going to make a factor in this election." Michelle F
For Obama: "And rightfully with Obama, however, my advice for Obama would be: admit that you have faults and admit that you didn't follow through and you might get a little bit more respect than you're getting right now." Michelle FPhoenix, AZ:
For Obama: "Stop overstating or overpromising. I would tell him you have really good dreams but they're not very realistic sometimes. So, just bring them back down to small bites so that way he can keep up to his promises." April C.
For Romney: "I would tell him to be a little bit more open-minded to other people's beliefs, not that he has to agree to them, and to try to put himself in the working man's shoes." April C.Suburban Milwaukee, WI:
For Obama: "I really want to know how he's going to do to make that health care bill really affordable to people that don't have insurance. Other than you [another participant] I know two other people in my family who do not have insurance…how are you going to make it affordable for those who cannot afford healthcare, whether it's getting through your company, can't afford it that way or can't afford the full thing on your own?" Bonnie
For Romney: "Same thing, what is your plan on health care?" Bonnie
For Both: "I guess the biggest thing I want to know is, what are you going to do that's going to change my life on a daily basis? What is going to be different? Just what are they going to do that will impact me directly? I don't want to hear all the big grand plans and ideas. How is that going to trickle down and affect me on a daily basis." AngelaSuburban Detroit, MI:
Both: "Only speak about what you're going to do. Don't say anything negative about the other person. And, be honest. If you're going to raise the Social Security age, just come out and say it. If they're going to lower something else, just come out and say it. Whatever it is they're going to do, just honestly suck it up, take the heat, and move on. Because they both say things people hated and loved, so just get it all out." KarenColumbus, OH:
Obama: "I would have him have a clear cut plan on how he's going to continue to work towards what he said he was going to. And if I were him, focus on maybe that he hasn't had enough time and now that he's got the four years in he know exactly where he's going." Karen
Romney: "To be more for the people and more personable, maybe that's why he choose the running mate that he did because he seems to have a more likable personality. But there is a big section of the country that I think will be turned off by him unless he opens up a little and has more personality." Karen
Both: "Stop all the bickering, the bashing, the arguing, and tell us what you're really going to do for this country. … A detailed plan. Not ‘I'm going to make this happen.' Tell us how you're going to make it happen and what resources you're going to use to make it happen. ... [I'm thinking of] the economy." MarieRaleigh, NC:
Both: "Cleary articulate what your vision is. How you're going to get there, and be specific with your steps. Don't dumb it down for us, we're not dummies. Number two; tell us how you are going to bridge the aisle between the two political parties in order to facilitate action in our government." Chandler
Focus Groups (JUNE)
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 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.
Concerns about the economy and their uncertainty about both candidates is the real dilemma for these Walmart Moms as they think about their November vote.
These moms are thinking about the economy as they evaluate the candidates. They visibly grapple in deciding whether they should stick with who they know (by re-electing Obama) or give someone new a chance (by electing Mitt Romney).
On the one hand, some moms some say President Obama inherited a tough situation, is already familiar with the problems, has some policies in place, and needs more time to see the effect of those policies.
On the other hand, some moms say Obama has had his chance, not much has happened, and it may be worth electing Mitt Romney to bring a fresh perspective and his business experience to the job. Yet, they point out this option could mean a period of time during which Romney is settling in and learning on the job during which the economy may suffer from inaction.
Economic concerns trump all other issues.
These moms do not think the economy is going very well. Few think it is improving or getting worse, while most say they are seeing no real change. Several moms talk about how they have been forced to cut back on their household budget and lower their general standard of living. As noted below, moms speak passionately about the economic struggles their families are facing. And, while it is clear the economy is a top concern heading into the upcoming election, few can point to specific economic remedies they would like or that the candidates are offering. This is typical of swing voters, yet it shows the challenges both candidates face in getting their messages across.
The conversation is not about "women's issues," it's about "moms' issues."
Interestingly, when asked about "women's issues" these moms don't have a clear definition. Some moms mentioned equal pay but still do not think of a specific set of women's issues. However, when asked about "moms' issues," respondents become more animated. Their own mom issues are big, ranging from gas prices, to education, health care and housing affordability to their kids' food allergies and bullying in schools. First and foremost, these moms are dedicated to their families and the issues that directly affect their households and their children. One mom in each group came close to tears describing her daily household struggles. (At the end of this memo we share some of these stories in the moms' own words.)
Social issues are not a primary focus for these moms at this time, although Latina Walmart moms devote more discussion to them.
Few moms voluntarily raise social issues throughout the evening's discussion. When probed about some of these issues — gay marriage, abortion, contraception — some moms, and particularly Latinas in Las Vegas, say they are of course important; but virtually all say they are not basing their voting decision on them.
As noted above, their primary concern is the economy (and how it relates to them as moms and their families); everything else is of secondary concern at this time.
The Latina moms we spoke to in Nevada had a more involved discussion about social issues and their own religiosity. And, we heard different points of view – some moms were pro-life while some were pro-choice on abortion; some in favor of gay marriage, some against it. Regardless of their position, these moms spoke from the heart and it is clear these issues are important to them, but like other moms in Richmond, the economy still seems to be the key driver of their voting decision this year.
The disconnect between Washington and Walmart Moms continues.
As we have seen numerous times in our research, these moms do not feel connected with Washington. They do not believe Washington understands the daily pressures moms are under and the burden of managing a tight household budget. They view elected officials in Washington as concerned only about what will benefit them; not what is good for the country, these moms, or their families.
Additionally, they see Washington and the world of politics as male-dominated. As such, they question if these men — whether they're running for president or congress — can truly relate to them and understand their thoughts and concerns as women, as moms.
Latina Walmart Moms are more likely to feel part of an important voting bloc, or community.
The Latina moms we spoke with in Las Vegas clearly feel they are part of a voting bloc that can have an impact on the outcome of the election. They passionately discuss the challenges the Latino community faces, what their parents and their families went through when they first came to this country, and how they can make life better for their own kids.
Although they are not paying close attention yet, these moms want to hear from the candidates.
Despite this disconnect, despite how busy their lives are and how little time they have to devote to following politics, these moms are planning to vote in November and are very conscientious about their decision.
These moms do not yet feel as though they have heard what President Obama or Mitt Romney plan to do to make things better. All say they want specifics, reassurance, and the sense the candidates will represent families like their own.
Despite lacking the specifics, these moms are living with the economic crisis every day. Yet, they are not thinking about the debt ceiling, the GDP and official jobs reports. Instead, they are dealing with the day-to-day impact: dealing with household budgets, paying for gas, putting food on the table, and making sure they can get their kids through college when the time comes.
There is clearly a lot of room for both candidates to communicate and connect with these moms. But, as we have noted in the past, this connection needs to occur in a real and personal way; candidates need to convey that they understand the challenges and concerns these moms are facing every day.
About President Obama:Richmond, VA:
"He hasn't produced a lot. I trusted him to make change and I haven't seen a lot of change in the last four years. That was his big thing: change." (Stephanie J.)
"False promises. A lot of promises made and a lot of changes supposed to happen. If nothing else, it's gotten worse. I feel there was a lot of fluff and nothing behind it." (Sara R.)
"Feel like he was strong at the beginning and watered down through the middle. He's starting to come around though, which is a good thing." (Kristy C.)
"I think he came in on a situation that had a lot of bumps and he tried to straighten out things. He did the best he could do with things messed up before he came in. Three years is not enough time." (Renee P.)Las Vegas, NV:
"When he came in he was all about change and getting the economy rolling; it seems like it's still the same, maybe even worse – he didn't change." (Nuvia M.)
"Every candidate goes in with problems, but that doesn't mean just because he's sitting in that seat he can make all those changes, so I feel bad for him." (Leanne B.)
"I don't know enough about what's going on right now, but I'm not ready to give up on him. I do feel hopeful about him." (Monica N.)
About Mitt Romney:Richmond, VA:
"I don't know that much about him." (Jennifer W.)
"He's a wealthy individual who will continue to target toward the wealthy." (Renee P.)
"He's a businessman, but I don't know that much about him. I've seen those commercials, but he might be a good businessman, I don't know. That's business though – there are consequences sometimes." (Bernadette B.)
"I'm concerned not many people know about him as an individual and what his goals are. They don't seem to be on improving the United States." (Sara R.)
"Unknown." (Stephanie J.)
"The whole Romney thing where factories have shut down, they've worked there for 30 years and they're left with nothing – no retirement, no healthcare. That concerns me – somebody potentially running the country doesn't care about that kind of stuff. That's scary because I work for a small business." (Rebecca W.)Las Vegas, NV:
"Don't know enough." (Veronica A.)
"He talks like Obama, that the economy is going to get better. They always say one thing and do another. They always make promises and I expect some change." (Nuvia M.)
"He's very religious. He's got a ton of kids and they go to church, but I don't want religion as part of my candidate." (Julia M.)
If Obama is re-elected:Richmond, VA:
"We need to look at the main issue to get everything stable. There so much bleeding going on right now. We need to stop the bleeding and then move forward. Maybe it's not enough time for three years, but if we have a new president he'll be new too. Maybe we should just let him finish out, but if we re-up, maybe it's better. It's such a mixed thing" (Kristy C.)
"More of the same, but with enough time that may shift and other things around the world will change as well" (Sara T.)
"On the positive side, it wouldn't be like he's starting from scratch. Obviously Romney is aware of what is going on, but he hasn't been in office and hasn't been behind the scenes. Hopefully it wouldn't get any worse since he's been there and knows what is working and what is not. He doesn't have to start all over." (Stephanie J.)Las Vegas, NV:
"He hasn't had the time to change anything yet; it's only been three years and you can't grow a flower in one week, it takes time." (Karla L.)
"He's already in place and has policies in place. We don't need to start over." (Julia M.)
If Romney is elected:Richmond, VA:
"I think there would be a learning period. He's going to need to figure out how to deal with it. There will be a period of time where it won't get better because he can't do anything immediately. It could get worse" (Stephanie J.)
"Hard to tell, it could be more of the same and an economy is naturally going to have an up and down periods." (Bernadette B.)Las Vegas, NV:
"It's time for a new person. I don't have faith in Obama anymore. One person moved in, didn't do it, so let's replace him." (Nuvia M.)
"Not sure, we don't know what he would do." (Veronica A.)
On being a key voting group:Richmond, VA:
"I think we all play an important role. Every vote counts" (Renee P.)
"Often in polling they talk about women. They'll say women are leaning towards this candidate or that candidate." (Stephanie J.)
"There hasn't been a major issue that's about moms, specifically. There hasn't been any issue we could point to and say moms would be in favor of that." (Jennifer W.)Las Vegas, NV:
"We are the minority of the people. We're a community and we want to our voice to be heard." (Karla L.)
What they want to hear from Obama and Romney:Richmond, VA:
"Gas prices are a big one – my husband had a job an hour away and every couple of days we were filling up his car. If we're not going to drill, then we need to find an alternative source of energy" (Kristy C.)
"I don't want to hear about same-sex marriage and reproductive rights, only because nothing's going to get done. They've talked about it way too long. They bring it in every presidential election to sway people and nothing ever gets done. That's how they try to get women's vote one way or the other." (Jennifer W.)
"The education system. It's huge to people in general, but women and mothers especially because you are not thinking about yourself, but your child. If someone had a fantastic plan that I could see happening — improving the quality of education that students are getting, ratio of teachers to students — that would get my vote." (Sara R.)
"I want to hear a strong economic plan, that's well defined and that could actually be implemented to change our economy and create jobs and stop outsourcing so much. But a real plan, not a half plan." (Jennifer W.)
"Job creation because that's going to affect all of us. Whether it's us or our husbands making more money, it will help provide for our families. We would be able to save and look to the future." (Jennifer W.)Las Vegas, NV:
From Romney: "He seems standoffish and he needs connection with the people; he only has connection with the top. Those people aren't us. He needs a connection with the real people." (Karla A.)
From Obama: "Listen to what he wanted to do when he first got elected and keep working on it. He's made small improvements but there are a lot of walls to go through and he has to keep working" (Julia M.)
On "women's issues" & "moms' issues":Richmond, VA:
"Not being able to do and/or be equal to men in the views of some people. Not necessarily that you feel that way, but some other people do." (Sara R.)
"To me, maybe health care because I'm concerned about my family. As a mom, I need to know my children are taken care of. My husband doesn't even think about that. He's more concerned about making money to provide for us, whereas I'm concerned if my child is sick whether I can take them to the hospital." (Stephanie J.)
"Trying to think ahead to the future for your children because you're constantly thinking about your children in 15-20 years when they are adults, are they going to have this same issues with the economy? Are they going to be able to go to college?" (Sara R.)
"As a mom it's your constant worry: are my kids going to have stable jobs?" (Sara R.)Las Vegas, NV:
"You have to look at everything. For me, I say education, but I'm also going to look at women's issues without even giving it a second thought." (Karla A.)
"I'm worried about health care and economy. To me, those are top priorities." (Veronica A.)
Daily life/what matters most/what are Walmart Moms focused on:Richmond, VA:
"Having enough time for everything that needs to get done and every little person has their own little issues that you're trying to take care of; going to the teacher conferences and feeling like the worst parent ever. Working full time and trying to take care of everything." (Bernadette B.)
"My son starting kindergarten in the fall; I just hear about all the bullying that's going on. Kids are so mean nowadays. It wasn't like there weren't bullies when I was growing up, but it wasn't at the extreme it is now. It worries me. He's a sweet boy and caring, and I don't want someone to take that as a weakness. I want to teach him to stand up for himself, and I want him to be a strong individual, but in a kind way." (Rebecca W.)
"I have a son with food allergies, so I worry that he'll get something at school he's not supposed to have. Also, my son is an outside child, we do so much outside, and my child is not like others and he doesn't stay inside. Because of that he doesn't have a lot of friends. He gets made fun of and that's a challenge every day." (Sheila G.)Las Vegas, NV:
"I'm a Christian. I grew up in a hard life, a gang life and my mom was addicted to meth. I came out of a divorced family and my mom was the fun mom, the party mom. She let me do drugs at a young age. With my kids it's different – my kids are involved in sports. Me and my husband, we don't want to be like that. My kids are the most important thing and I'm going to give them a life that we never had. In our household, divorce is not an option; it's not a word that's ever been spoken." (Angelica G.)
"I stayed at home for 10 years and started working about 3 years ago. It's really hard having to come home after work and pick up the slack. I want to be home and I told my husband he needs to find a better paying job so I can stay home again." (Angelica G.)
"Education is big, coming from a Hispanic community we all have a poor story to tell. For me, now what I face is teaching my children to have a better lifestyle and to stay in school. My 14-year old has already gotten busted smoking pot and drinking. I have to keep him in school. I don't want them to be involved in drugs; I don't want my daughter to be single mom." (Monica N.)
"We came from California – it's just us here in Nevada, no other family. I got a job first, and now my husband is trying to open a business. It's hard, you need money. I want to stay home, but I have to wait another 4-5 years before we get some money back. We have already spent $30,000 to open the small business. I come home and I am tired with the kids." (Karla L.)
Walmart Mom Voter
Online Discussion (APRIL)
These moms are clearly worried about the country's economy and their own family's finances. They cite unemployment, rising gas prices, the cost of groceries, decreasing home values and foreclosures as major issues. Several mention tough personal difficulties, such as husbands facing unemployment, caring for sick children or putting themselves through college.
Some moms feel like they are "maintaining," but most are making cuts and budgeting carefully to make ends meet. Lifestyle adjustments include (more) couponing, putting off larger purchases, sacrificing family vacations, staying home and eating in rather than going out to restaurants. They also worry about being able to put themselves and their children through college and whether there will be any jobs for their kids upon graduation.
These moms have little trust or confidence in organizations, and while some want to believe the government is trying to improve the country's situation, many also point blame at Washington.
Washington and the media may be focused on the "War on Women," but these moms are not.
Only one of the 29 women we spoke with over this three‐day discussion talked about the "War on Women." None of these moms mention the recent back‐and‐forth over Hilary Rosen's comments, the Violence Against Women Act, or the Komen controversy, etc.
Likewise, the term "gender gap" is either unfamiliar to these moms or has mixed and limited meaning.
Several Walmart Moms have never even heard the term "gender gap," while others assume it refers to compensation discrepancies between men and women in the workplace.
Those who are aware of the insider debate on women's issues say it's another sign of an out‐of‐touch Congress.
To these moms, the recent dialogue about contraception, abortion and other social issues tells them that Congress does not understand what matters most and is out of touch with the issues that matter to them and average families across the nation: the economy, jobs, gas prices, education.
Yet these moms do feel politicians don't understand the needs of women or moms, and could benefit from more women in office.
Several Walmart Moms note there are not enough women in politics, while others say the debate seems aimed at men. Since so few of their elected officials are women/moms, they just cannot fully appreciate what these moms deal with each day.
President Obama seems slightly more in touch with women and families, in part because he has young daughters, and in part because of Romney's wealth. However, he gets a mixed score card from these moms – some point to things they think he has done well, while others express disappointment that he has fallen short of expectations.
These moms are undecided in their vote for president. Most are going to be assessing what the candidates propose for improving the economy. In fact, when asked to choose between domestic, social, economic and foreign issues, the economy is by far the number one item on these moms' checklist.
Several moms have been following the Supreme Court hearings and are interested in the outcome as this is an issue that will affect them personally.
Some women appreciate the new health care legislation for the potential health benefits it could provide for their families and community – specifically mentioning that more people would be insured and kids can stay on their parents' policy until age 26.
Other moms oppose it for the fiscal implications. They believe it costs taxpayers too much, overall healthcare costs will go up, and they disagree with the mandate for everyone to purchase insurance.
"Disgusted" and "disappointed" are words that are often used by Walmart Moms to describe their feelings toward Congress. They see Congress as "bickering children" who either get nothing done or take forever to do it, citing the debt ceiling debate as an example.
These moms are also fed up of hearing a lot of talk but seeing very little action. They are jaded by empty campaign promises. Instead, they want candidates who will be honest with them, focus on what matters to them and follow through on what they say they will do.
These moms do not feel well represented. They see their elected officials and candidates running for office – whether for President or Member of Congress – as being elitist, out‐of‐touch and often focused on the wrong issues: arguing about social issues when they should be discussing ways to improve the economy, reduce gas prices and get the country back on track.
The bad news for presidential and congressional candidates is that these moms are somewhat jaded by the political process.
The good news is that they are still very much undecided in how they plan to vote, and they are still open to hearing from candidates on what they plan to do if (re‐)elected.
But, if candidates want to connect with these moms and send a signal that they understand them, that plan must focus on the issues that personally affect these moms and their families: the economy, jobs, gas prices, and education.
The following quotations are just a brief sampling of what we heard from these moms during our three‐day online discussion with them. Full access to the discussion panel can be provided upon request.
"Right now my husband and I are both focused on finding employment and paying bills. We need to know exactly what is in our bank account, what bills are due next and how far behind we are on each bill. Our money worries could be all consuming, but we make sure we also have time to relax and take care of our son and our home. I am a full time student, so my study time is very important; it's not a simple task to make top 15% of my class. My husband is currently looking into starting college for the first time and we are concerned about getting further into debt and the time it will take. The question is: Is it worth it?" Celeste, OH
"My family is just barely keeping up. We live paycheck to paycheck and have debt like our vehicles and home. We try not to go anywhere unless we must to try to save on gas. We only eat out once in a while because it is too expensive, and we stopped going on family vacations. It's hard to try to explain to our kids why we cannot do all the fun things like we used to do." Jamie, PA
"As for the changes my family has made: We try to run all of our errands at once while we are already out, to save gas and $. When there is room, we drive the smaller car that uses less gas per mile. The days when the kids and I are "stuck" at home, I have a chance to catch up on cleaning and laundry. Also, when we go grocery shopping, we often go together as a family. We ask each other if we really need or will eat a certain item if it isn't necessary. We also use lots of coupons and grab the sale items. We keep our heat lower and the AC higher..." Nicole, NV.
Gender Gap/Social Issues:
"Although women's issues are important to me, at this time the economy and other domestic issues are more important." Tina, OH
"The "decision makers" in Washington are mainly all men, which to me doesn't seem like the group that would understand stay at home moms like me." Beth, VA
"I think that sometimes the fact that all the candidates are men does make a difference. When I think of some candidates speaking about things like reproductive rights, birthing choices, etc., it's hard to believe a man could really "get" how a woman would feel about those issues. I think my husband is a pretty compassionate and caring guy, but even he doesn't get what those issues mean to a woman. So even though these men might be great Dads and caring husbands, it's tough for me to think they fully understand all the issues that are important to women." Christina, PA
"I believe the issues I worry about are being addressed, but I believe that they are being far overshadowed by topics such as abortion and religion. I have heard very little about the ways the candidates plan to improve the economy, but I have heard many things about different candidates' opinions on abortion, birth control, and gay rights. These are important topics, but I think they are putting too much emphasis on these topics and just blaming people for our economy instead of coming up with a plan to fix it." Arlana, OH
"Abortion is always a key issue for me, but it was actually 3rd on my list behind domestic issues because I believe that health care needs urgently addressed and, as a Science teacher, obviously education and the environment are crucial." Mary Jane, FL
Voting in November:
"I'd like to vote for who I believed could best benefit our country. However, that is hard to say because I think each candidate makes promises that they may be unable to keep during their election campaign. It may just boil down to the lesser of two evils unless one can convince me otherwise." Kristen, VA
"I am really undecided about who I am voting for in November. I do not associate myself with any party affiliation. I vote for what I like to hear. I am not really impressed with Romney, but I have not done enough research on his points to say I would not vote for him. With Obama in office again, I'm not sure what could be changed." Cathryn, NV
"This biggest debate is the 'obamacare' program. To penalize people who cannot afford insurance is ludicrous! Plus, if the government wants to mandate health coverage then we eliminate this being a democratic society to it being socialist. Socialist countries provide healthcare coverage and services to all their citizens." Susan, FL
"I think that he [President Obama] has done a good job of getting started with healthcare reform. I think that there is still a long way to go before we see true healthcare reform in this country, but his policies have positively impacted many families, especially those with young children who have pre‐existing conditions and those with college children who are adults but not yet ready to carry their own insurance coverage." Christina, PA
"They are primarily a bunch of millionaires too stuck in their political ideology to compromise and do what is right for other people. If they had to think about how to pay for food and gas, the tone in Washington might change." Sandra, FL
"I do not think elected officials and running candidates understand my life and what matters most to me. They make too much money to understand what it is like to live paycheck to paycheck and for someone to be on disability. All they care about is their personal agendas." Jamie, PA