On behalf of Walmart, Public Opinion Strategies and Purple Strategies conducted two focus groups of Walmart Moms. (Walmart Moms are defined as voters with children age 18 or younger at home and who shopped at Walmart at least once in the past month.)
One group was conducted among GOP primary voters in Manchester, NH with Walmart Moms who had not made their “final” decision regarding who they would vote for in the February GOP primary election. The second focus group was conducted among likely Democratic Caucus-goers in Des Moines, IA with Walmart Moms who also had not made their “final” decision regarding who they would support in the February caucuses. The focus groups were conducted on November 3, 2015. For more on our past research among Walmart Moms, please visit walmartmomsresearch.com.
It’s Striking How Similar Concerns Were Between the Two Groups
1. Walmart Moms are overwhelmingly negative about the direction of the country.
Using words like “crazy,” “downhill” “going to hell, horrible and crappy, there’s no sugar-coating how these women feel about the direction of the country. As one NH woman said, “we’re trying to save the world without fixing our country first.”
2. These Moms are still stressed by the economy.
While previous Walmart Mom focus groups have highlighted “jobs” as a major concern, these current groups put the spotlight on the “rising cost of living” as squeezing their household budgets and keeping them up late at night.
Several of the Moms mention how they or their husbands are making more money than they did a few years ago, but that it still doesn’t go as far as they need it to. Many of these women seem to participate daily in a balancing exercise – trying to match their income with the family’s needs and deciding what they can do without. One asks, “Does anyone else cry when they pay bills”
3. They are furious with Washington.
Republicans and Democrats alike believe that Washington is broken, that neither side wants to get along and that they seem to be in it for their own political gain rather than for the people they represent. These women say they are sick of Washington and the politicians that run it.
Nonetheless, many of these women hold out hope that DC can be fixed. As we’ve seen from previous groups, Walmart Moms tend to be relentlessly optimistic, and they explain that optimism by referring to their kids – in the words of one woman: “if you have kids, you have to have hope.”
The Groups Diverge When the Focus Turns To the Upcoming Elections
4. NH GOP’ers are much more engaged in the campaign than their IA DEM counterparts.
Election day can’t come soon enough for NH Republicans so that they can vote to help the country make a U-Turn from President Obama’s mis-guided policies. They are energized and enthused and looking forward to casting their votes. IA Democrats, on the other hand, show none of the same level of intensity, rather viewing the campaign season with more of a lukewarm attitude. Part of that is undoubtedly tied to the sentiment that President Obama has done a pretty good job, and their desire is to continue most of his programs and policies.
5. Republicans look at 2016 as “critical,” Democrats not so much.
When asked about the importance of the ’16 election, Republicans nearly gush that the country is at a crossroads and that this election is of critical importance. Democrats, on the other hand, after two terms of President Obama, seem to feel none of the urgency demonstrated by Republicans, believing this Presidential election is similar to past ones.
6. Republicans and Democrats differ on top issues.
Republicans highlight their concern about illegal immigration, welfare, and Common Core, and they draw attention to an emerging national security crisis. On the other hand, Democrats’ focus on debt (unexpectedly), as well as police brutality and marriage equality. (They view the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality as a rare positive moment for Washington.)
The Road to February is paved with potholes.
7. NH Republicans are far from decided on their choice.
With seven Walmart Moms having at least four GOP candidates still in contention for their vote, to say that the campaign is “fluid” is a bit of an understatement. In fact, many of the voters say this is still too early for them to be making decisions regarding the candidates as they are still in the “kicking the tire stage” of campaign season.
While there was unquestioned support for GOP “outsiders” in the NH group, there was much debate over Donald Trump and whether he was simply too rude/outspoken to get their votes. In contrast, voters seemed to embrace Ben Carson and describe him as caring and nice. Marco Rubio also received positive comments from GOP voters, though it was pretty clear that their knowledge of him was little more than skin-deep, referring to his looks and charm.
As a side note, it seems quite unlikely that any of these GOP women will be casting their support for Hillary Clinton, as they describe her in the most unflattering terms. In the words of one Mom, “If Martha Stewart can go to jail, so can Hillary Clinton.”
8. IA Democrats leaning Hillary’s way, though not enthusiastic about it.
The seeming indifference that Iowa Democrats have about the 2016 elections colors the way they look at Hillary Clinton as well. While the Clinton campaign has run ads targeted to these very voters focused on equal pay for women, there’s a real lack of connection these voters feel toward Hillary, resulting in almost tepid support for her candidacy.
There isn’t much enthusiasm from this group about Bernie Sanders either. Some of the women in the group are still considering him based on his issue positons and the fact they are not sold on Hillary. There’s a general sense that Bernie is a serious contender and could earn their votes.
Most telling about these women’s feelings toward Hillary though was an exercise toward the end of the group that asked what emotion they would feel if Hillary were elected and about ready to serve her first term. While a couple of the women offered words that one expected to hear like “hopeful” and “secure,” others voiced the unexpected – “disappointed,” “concerned,” “nervous,” “nauseated” and “frenzied.” These Democrats expressed concern that Hillary wouldn’t stand up for social issues like Obama has and that she has “baggage,” describing her as “shady” and “shifty.”
When asked to relate Hillary to an animal, the Democrats overwhelmingly associate her with felines- domestic cats, lions, and bobcats. They view her as strong on the outside, but unsure what is below the surface.
These women also cautioned that it was still early in the campaign, with a long ways to go before February.
Moms Want Elected Officials to Take Their Jobs as Seriously as Moms Do
9. Walmart Moms take their jobs seriously.
Family comes first for these Moms, as they spend their days and nights trying to find balance in their households – economically and personally. They are focused on living within their means and with an eye toward the future of their kids. In fact, their kids are their constituency. They seem to never waver from that.
So, to some extent, these Moms want their elected officials to take their jobs as seriously as they do, never taking their focus away from help the folks they represent, including these Moms and their families.