As much as I know women are not all alike, that they can differ dramatically from one another in their thinking about politics (and everything else, for that matter), I keep coming back to this “non bloc” of voters for clues to how they see their choices in this year’s election.
No doubt I’m drawn to the subject in part because I’m a woman — and a mother myself — and so can possibly identify with how some women think about the issues. At the same time, I don’t pretend to put myself in the shoes of many or even most women, because my circumstances are outside the norm: I’m a news reporter, I’ve lived in Washington for most of my life, etc.
Still, for whatever reasons, I’m often fixated whenever I read news or smart analysis about what women voters are saying. Probably mainly because I think women may hold special clues to how the electorate as a whole is thinking. It happened this week when my friend Amy Walter, political director for ABC News, wrote about an online focus group of so-called “Wal-Mart moms” from several states that was convened by two pollsters — one a Democrat, the other a Republican. I learned first that the moms all have children under 18 living at home, they shop at Walmart at least once a month, and are from states that will be closely fought over in the election: Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Nevada.
Between Amy’s reporting and the analysis of Democratic pollster Margie Omero of Momentum Analysis, and Republican Alex Bratty of Public Opinion Strategies, the central finding is how much financial sacrifice these women have had to make, for themselves and their families. For that reason, the economy is the main issue on their minds — but it’s more complicated than that; it extends to the security of their families and themselves.
Pollster Margie Omero summed up her takeaway in the Huffington Post:
Regardless of whether they work outside the home or not, and regardless of their own personal finances, these moms are struggling. They spoke passionately about caring for sick children, going through chemotherapy, having an unemployed husband, or finishing up their college degree. The women commiserated about not having a safe, reliable car to transport their kids. And many worried about the job market their kids would graduate into, and what student loans they might have when they get there.
Omero cautions that these women aren’t paying much attention to the war in Afghanistan or the so-called political “war on women” since they’re mainly trying to make ends meet.
Despite several polls that give President Obama an advantage with them, she concludes that most of these “Wal-Mart moms” have such a negative view of the ability of politicians to make a difference in their lives, no candidate can take them for granted.
Sobering words for both presidential campaigns, and a reminder to us in the news media to take time when we talk to voters, listen carefully when they describe what they worry about, and what matters most in their lives.