The Gender Gap, The War On Women – there’s been a lot of focus on women and moms already in this election; but is the conversation that’s been going on really the right one or the relevant one? Not according to the moms we recently spoke to in an online panel that convened over three days.
My firm, Public Opinion Strategies, in conjunction with Democratic firm Momentum Analysis, has been listening to an important group of voters since the 2008 elections: Walmart Moms. These are women defined as voters with children age 18 or younger living at home and who shop at Walmart at least once per month.
Last month, both firms teamed up to conduct an online discussion group among 29 Walmart Moms who were recruited from key election states: Florida, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
These moms opted for Obama in 2008 but pulled the lever for Republicans in 2010. Our various projects over the years have shown these women to be truly swing voters. Six months away from the election, we decided to take their temperature again to hear what they have to say and what they’re going to be paying attention to as the presidential candidates vie for their vote in November.
It’s clear there is a disconnect between what matters to these moms and what they see and hear coming out of Washington, their elected officials and candidates running for office.
Several of these 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. Meanwhile only one of the 29 women we spoke with over this three-day discussion mentioned the War on Women.
To these moms, the recent dialogue about contraception, abortion and other social issues is just another sign of an out-of-touch Congress that does not understand them or what matters most.
These moms aren’t focused on “women’s issues,” they’re not fighting about whether working moms or stay-at-home moms have it tougher. Instead, they are concerned with the big stuff that’s affecting the whole nation and having a real impact on their daily lives, being able to care of their families and manage the household budget. Those issues are the economy, jobs, gas prices and education.
Instead of hearing a constructive dialogue about these critical issues and seeing real action come out of Washington, they see Congress as elitists who act “…like little spoiled children, bickering, name calling and getting nothing or very little done.”
These Walmart Moms challenge their elected officials to “walk a mile in my shoes and see if you can live like me!!!!” They want them “…to put aside all this political nonsense…and look at what is going on on almost every street of America…people are desperate and are in pain and suffer with worry every day just to pay the mortgage or rent and electric and food and gas just to get to work.”
As you might have guessed by now, these moms are somewhat jaded by the political process. However, they tell us they are planning to vote in November and they are still very much undecided in how they plan to vote. They’re open to hearing from candidates on both sides of the political aisle.
BUT, these candidates must come to the table prepared to have the right conversation. That means connecting with these women on their terms and what matters to them and their families. These women aren’t interested in a conversation about “women’s issues” right now. They’re too busy sweating the big stuff, and think their elected officials should be, too.