I Could Have Told Walmart That Moms Are the Key to the 2010 Election

I don’t think I’ve ever specifically said that ‘Walmart moms’ are the key to the 2010 election.  But there have been plenty of studies showing that women in general, and mothers in particular, hold a lot of sway not just with household spending, but also at the ballot box.

The release of Walmart’s study for the 2010 election entitled, “Who Can Win the Walmart Mom?” takes a look at not just mothers, but also who fits the demographic mold of a typical Walmart customer and what those women are concerned about when deciding how to vote in November.  While much of what’s in the report didn’t come as any big surprise to me, there were some fascinating tidbits that those running for office should definitely pay attention to — because you know what happens when you don’t listen to your mom!

It turns out that most of the women polled for this Walmart report voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and voted Democratic for other candidates then, as well.  For 2010, however, a majority of them are unhappy with Congress, are skeptical about health care reform legislation and are leaning toward voting Republican, even though they usually vote blue.

The report paints a picture of who the typical Walmart mom is — she’s a white, educated woman under 45 with a couple of kids under 18 with a middle-class income, but who thinks her family is really a lower class family when it comes to finances.  Of course, there are large numbers of women they polled who don’t fit that description, but the majority of those polled did.

And what is that women are focused on for the 2010 mid-term elections?

Not a big surprise, since that’s been the story at least since Bill Clinton ran for president.  Lots of reporters are all abuzz about this all new, very shiny theory that will shed light on how things turn out in November!  But here’s the thing — people love to put labels on women who are mothers to try to distill us into groups that can be addressed in tidy little soundbites.  Those who want our attention and our votes do that at their own peril.

One thing I found interesting about the event I was invited to to hear about this study was this  — the majority of those in the room were middle-aged white men.  Some of them chuckled and rolled their eyes at the thought of these mothers worrying about anything other than putting food on the table and saving money.  The women on the panel — a representative from Walmart and Margie Omero, the Democratic pollster who worked on the study, didn’t think it was any laughing matter to review and analyze the voting patterns, habits and concerns of these women.  As they spoke, it was clear they took the information seriously.

So are Walmart moms the new soccer moms?  Politicians, pollsters and officials would be a lot better off if they stopped trying to put a label on us (of course, this one isn’t even really new – it’s been around since 2008)  and actually focused on what we’re concerned about in addition to the economy.  Just because the economy is at the top of our list, doesn’t mean we don’t have a lot of other interests on our plate, as well.

When all those people can stop seeing women who are mothers as nothing more than a one-dimensional stereotype that can be dissected for political purposes, they’ll get a lot more involvement and a lot more of our votes, regardless of which side of the political aisle we’re on!  Because the thing is this — no one likes being labeled, especially when a label becomes shorthand for something akin to a backhanded compliment.

For the politicians, pollsters and, yes, even businesses like Walmart, I’ll just say we are paying attention to all the things that concern us, even when we’re pinching pennies, juggling our work lives and businesses, trying to decide how we can afford health care for our kids and driving to soccer practice.

And by the way, where were the real Walmart moms?  I’d love to hear them weigh in!

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3 Responses to “I Could Have Told Walmart That Moms Are the Key to the 2010 Election”

  1. Lisse Says:

    I find this term more than a little creepy. Using these two words they have:

    1. Created and defined a demographic.

    2. Stamped their brand on to this demographic, encouraging women to label themselves, suggesting that they might be A) spreading this brand name through a “club” with which their peers are encouraged to self-identify B) giving the company free advertising by doing so C) influenced by the a huge corporation whose priorities might not really be in the best interest of working families in the long run.

    3. Thrown their name out there as a major influencer on public policy (similar to the way they became arbiters of culture by publicly declaring they would not carry certain things – usually music albums), while hiding safely behind the image of the mini-van driving mom whose biggest concern is the number of pennies she’s paying for each baby wipe.

    It’s both billiant and sinister.

    Signed,

    Not a Wal-mart Mom

  2. Debbie Owensby Moore Says:

    I agree with Lisse. This is the first I have heard of this term. Maybe Walmart conducted 2010 election study so the term would resurface again. After reading the study, I sense that Walmart is trying to improve their image as a place where educated women shop. Yet by conducting the survey on-line, the research wipes out a whole section of the working poor who might not have a computer.

    I am also tired of women being labelled and put in a box. Interesting that most of the audience were men. The conservative, middle aged white man is running scared. They don’t know who to fear more, women or minorities.

  3. PunditMom Says:

    Debbie, That was one of the things I wondered about — why conduct the survey online when that automatically has a self-selecting aspect in terms of who is, and is not, online.

    Lisse, I agree with your conclusion — brilliant and sinister. The economy isn’t good and it doesn’t look it’s going to get much better for a while, so businesses like Walmart have to try something to raise their profile to benefit the bottom line.


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