Senate races remain stubbornly tight in key states with a number of voters unable to make up their minds at least in ways that pollsters can measure. But two all-female focus groups in North Carolina and Louisiana offered clues about what voters are thinking far away from the D.C. bubble.
The women gathered around a table Monday night in Charlotte and in New Orleans are registered voters, but this election they’ve pretty much tuned out politics. It’s just too depressing when all the candidates do is bash each other. And world affairs are no comfort either, with Ebola surfacing as the latest scary thing.
Better to put on blinders, they say, and focus on home and family.
The fact that Kay Hagan in North Carolina and Mary Landrieu in Louisiana are women doesn’t much impress these voters, dubbed Walmart Moms for their shopping habits and having at least one child under 18 at home. When asked whether they would vote for Hagan or her challenger, Republican Thom Tillis, they resisted siding with either candidate. Asked if Hagan deserves reelection, not a single hand went up -- which is the same thing that happened when asked if she didn’t deserve reelection.
“All those ads and you don’t know one way or another?” the moderator pressed. Many millions have been spent on television ads in North Carolina, as groups on the right and left try to sway the electorate.
When would they decide? “When it gets closer to the time,” one woman said. How would they decide? “Google it,” said another. When? “Probably the night before.”
What did these voters take away from all those ads? They learned that Hagan is trying to portray Tillis as “a fraud…someone who changes his mind…who’s not stable,” and they heard that Tillis wants to raise the retirement age for social security to 70, and they know that he opposes raising the minimum wage. But asked to recall specific ads, the one that sticks with them says Hagan “skipped votes to go to a fundraiser.” Actually it was a hearing on the ISIS threat that Hagan missed; either way, it feeds into the preconception that politicians care foremost about their reelection.
Finally, asked to vote despite their misgivings about Hagan or Tillis, the ten women, amidst groans and sighs about how hard the decision is, mirrored the divided North Carolina electorate: five for Hagan, five for Tillis.
“If control of the senate goes through North Carolina, then these women are ripe for the picking,” declared Neil Newhouse, the Republican pollster whose firm, Public Opinion Strategies, conducted the focus groups together with Margie Omero of Purple Strategies.
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