Moms are on our minds. A single comment a few weeks ago erupted into a full-scale battle in the so-called "Mommy Wars," where moms, allegedly, stew in ready-to-boil tensions between those who work outside the home and those who don't. But my firm's recent bipartisan qualitative work suggests the only "Mommy War" is the one all moms fight every day -- the battle to take care of their families, their homes, and themselves, all at the same time.
This month my firm, Momentum Analysis, along with Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies, conducted a qualitative bulletin board focus group of Walmart moms, defined as moms with children under 18 living at home and who have shopped at a Walmart at least once in the last month. (The group was sponsored by Walmart; my firm's previous work on Walmart moms can be found here, here, here and here; and you can read more about this project here.) The moms in this study were eager to to participate and have a few lessons to teach candidates from either party hoping to reach moms like them this November.
These moms are not fighters in the Mommy Wars, or the War on Women. Of our 29 mom participants, only one participant brought up the "War on Women," and nobody mentioned any of the recent media skirmishes on women's issues. Some might assume swing voting moms are paying close attention to the Rosen/Ann Romney debate, the Foster Friess comments, Rick Santorum's views on birth control, the Blunt Amendment, the Violence Against Women Act, or the Komen vs. Planned Parenthood battle; our Walmart moms suggest that's simply untrue.
In fact, their Mommy War is one they're all in together -- battling tough times, busy schedules, and worries about the future. 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.
A bickering Washington overly focused on social issues reinforces how out of touch politicians are with these moms. Moms feel Congress is out of touch, and out of control. One schoolteacher compared Members of Congress to her middle-schoolers, and another called them "bickering children." Said another, "If they [Congress] had to think about how to pay for food and gas, the tone in Washington might change."
Some moms also pointed to debates over abortion and other social issues as a further sign that politicians have lost sight of the most important issues. Said one mom, "I believe the issues I worry about are being addressed but [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."
This means moms could again to be up for grabs this November. Our mom participants aren't sure yet how they're going to vote this November. But so far at least, Obama seems a bit more in touch with women than does Romney, because of Obama's young family and Romney's wealth. Our past polling of Walmart moms shows they voted for Obama in 2008, and then voted decidedly Republican in 2010.
Both parties can learn a lot from these moms. First, neither party should assume swing moms are paying close attention to these debates right now. Second, politicians overly focused on social issues strike these moms as out of touch with the daily challenges they face.