Have you heard? Obama's fate rests on the whims of female Walmart shoppers who have children under the age of 18. In other words, Walmart Moms! It's the hot new swing vote demographic scrutinized by Republican and Democratic pollsters Neil Newhouse and Margie Onero. Forget that the predictive value of catchphrase voting blocks like "NASCAR dads" or "soccer moms" has been proven tenuous. It's fun to place humans in arbitrary groupings and speculate about distant elections. Here's what the new study found, Reuters reports:
The young mothers used words like disappointing, mediocre, wishy-washy and indifferent to describe Obama. But they also acknowledged Obama alone could not resolve persistent U.S. economic difficulties in the three years he has been in the job.
Many gave the president credit for trying and said they would consider voting for him again in 2012 ... A few members of each group said they definitely would not vote for Obama in 2012, and a few said they would. But most were not close to deciding who they would support.
In short, we learn that Walmart Moms have mixed feelings about President Obama. "These voters don't seem like they have given up on Obama," said Newhouse, the Republican pollster. "They are losing patience with Washington, but it seemed like Obama doesn't come out that bad."
The only thing more frustrating than the opaqueness of the response data, which consists of gut feelings from three 10-person focus groups who spoke for 90 minutes -- that is, 30 people speaking for four-and-a-half hours, or slightly longer than the NBC's Today show -- is the hard reality that determining elections by catchphrase demographics is notoriously difficult. As The New York Times Nate Silver explained in March:
The impact that demographics have on voting behavior is a lot more fluid than you might think from all the talk of “soccer moms” and “Nascar dads.” ... The truth is that none of us is just one thing. We are all members of any number of different demographic categories — and the voting tendencies associated with those categories often point in different, or even conflicting, directions. For instance, I am a non-unionized white male who makes an above-average income, all things that predict Republican voting — but I’m also college-educated, relatively young, and live in the urban Northeast, all things that predict Democratic voting. To the extent that my political interests are dictated by my demographics, I have a lot of competing priorities.
He goes on to demonstrate the various competing and confusing forces within the Evangelical vote or Hispanic vote or union household vote. But more to the point, what the rise of the Walmart Moms is really a bellwether for is the increasing need for horse race stories as the November 2012 elections draw nearer. A modest plea? With 13 more months until the election, can we have more entertaining catchphrase demographics? As an Onion sketch from the '08 race suggests, the Walmart Moms are hogging all the attention from the Dunkin' Donuts independents, Dinty Moore Dads, people who eat artisinal sandwiches, corduroy-wearing homosexuals, dental office receptionists who plan on going back to school to get their real-estate degree and necktie-Asians who live above frozen yogurt shops: