Walmart Moms Could Swing 2012 Elections

Politicians are ignoring these thrifty shoppers at their peril, pollsters say.

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From presidential contenders to state legislators, political candidates for the 2012 election may be missing out on an important demographic in America: moms who shop at Walmart.

According to a new study released Wednesday by Public Opinion Strategies and Momentum Analysis, these so-called Walmart Moms could again be a significant segment of swing voters going into the 2012 elections. But according to the pollsters, most candidates so far aren't yet speaking their language.

[See a slideshow of the 10 Jobs Created by Presidential Campaigns.]

"It's crucial that they listen to what swing women are interested in," says Momentum Analysis's Margie Omero. "Politicians ignore them to their peril."

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Walmart Moms—women with children 18 or younger who shop at Walmart at least once per month—make up 27 percent of all registered female voters and about 14 percent of all American voters. They're also about evenly split on party identification among Republicans, Democrats, and independents. In 2008, most voted for President Obama, but by November 2010, they were key in helping Republicans take over the House.

And since most aren't yet engaged in the election season this year, it's still too early to tell where their allegiances will lie in 2012.

According to Public Opinion Strategies' Neil Newhouse—who is also former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's pollster—Walmart Moms "feel like they're on the frontlines of the economy," and are more interested in how to make ends meet at home than any of the major issues in Washington. Focus groups suggest that ubiquitous phrases in Washington, like "debt crisis," "Dodd-Frank," and "entitlements," rarely even enter their vocabulary. And instead, while they feel the "economic squeeze" more than others in America, they have a tough time seeing how Washington can help.

For the most part, social issues, like abortion, immigration, and gay rights, rank at the bottom of their interests, while the economy and domestic issues, like healthcare, education, and the environment, engage them more.

[Slideshow: 10 Issues Driving Obama's Re-Election Campaign.]

To illustrate how split—or indifferent—they are politically: The study shows that although Walmart Moms tend to be more sympathetic to the conservative Tea Party movement than the general public, the major concerns they voice--over the costs of groceries, college, and housing, for example—seem to play more into the Democratic message than the GOP's.

Walmart Moms, for example, are not necessarily paying attention to tax rates, and by a 2 to 1 margin, more are concerned with their own family's budget than the nation's. A 51 percent majority, according to the study, wants the government to do more to solve people's problems.

[Read: Rick Newman: 5 Good Ideas from 4 GOP Economic Plans.]

Most remarkable, Newhouse noted Wednesday, is how adaptable these women have been to the country's economic problems, which they don't see improving any time soon. "They don't see things getting any better," he says. "They're not letting go of their dollars."

This study, Newhouse says, should inform all candidates, including his own, how to communicate with these voters, especially for the general election, when they're more likely to get engaged. As for whether Walmart Moms could help Romney overcome his recent ceiling of support? "Let's just have patience for that," he says. "This campaign has just begun."

  • Read: Mitt Romney Charges Rick Perry With Flip-Flopping.
  • See a slideshow of 10 Jobs Created by Presidential Campaigns.
  • Read Rick Newman: 5 Good Ideas from 4 GOP Economic Plans.