I normally don’t consider WalMart a reliable purveyor or sponsor of polling data, and I normally wouldn’t make a big deal out of a single focus group. But new Walmart-financed findings by Democratic pollster Margie Omero and Republican counterpart Neil Newhouse – and reported in the Washington Post – are so potentially game-changing for this year’s presidential election that they deserve at least some attention.
In short, they indicate that if Donald Trump wins the Republican presidential nomination, he won’t have nearly as much of a problem with female voters as held by the conventional wisdom. And these results seem at least reasonably credible since you wouldn’t think that outspoken trade critic Trump is import-happy WalMart’s favorite politician these days.
The focus group was held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and zeroed in on “WalMart moms” – a demographic “defined as women who have children younger than 18 at home and have gone to the store at least once in the past month.” And participants were split evenly between Trump supporters on the one hand, and backers of the two other remaining active Republican candidates on the other.
According to a summary of these Republican women from Omero and Newhouse, “Characterizing Donald Trump as a type of car or animal resulted in some fascinating descriptions …women depicted him as a Porsche, a Ferrari, a muscle car, a boxer who stands his ground, a bulldog, an Escalade, a lion (fierce and king of the jungle) and as an unpredictable cat. These Moms praised him as someone who speaks his mind, stands his ground, and is refreshingly politically incorrect.”
Newhouse added in an interview with Post reporter Chris Cillizza, “These GOP Walmart moms seem to want no part of the #NeverTrump movement. In fact, they respect his strength and his straight talk and believe he is the party’s best shot to beat Hillary.”
And what about the numerous degrading comments the Republican front-runner has made throughout his career about women? “When these GOP Moms were pushed about Trump’s gender issues,” the two pollsters wrote, “there was some acknowledgment that he may be a ‘sexist,’ but general agreement among these women was that ‘I don’t really care, I’ve seen worse.’”
Given these attitudes, it’s not surprising that this focus group seemed unenthusiastic – at best – about Trump’s Republican rivals Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich. But the terms used to describe them are worth quoting:
“Voters were generally unable to tell us much about either Cruz or Kasich, [The Walmart moms] seemed to dislike Cruz perhaps more than the swing Moms [from suburban Philadelphia and questioned in a separate focus group]; he was generally described in both groups as ‘religious,’ ‘gorilla — almost human,’ or ‘like a neighbor’s dog — you don’t know if they’re going to bite.’ Kasich’s image was even thinner, ‘I think they like him in Ohio,’ said one, ‘too sane,’ or ‘Mild, like a kitten,’ said others.”
And how would the Walmart moms react if Trump was denied the GOP crown? “Terribly misled” and “cheated” were representative reactions.
National polls still show Trump with high negatives with American women overall (70 percent, according to a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal survey), and even with Republican women (50 percent.) But pollsters and the rest of the U.S. political establishment never saw the Trump challenge coming and have underestimated him from the get-go. (Ditto for analyses of Democratic challenger Bernie Sanders.) Who’s to say that the supposed experts won’t be just as wrong in doubting that his relationship with women is just as “amazing” as he’s claimed it is with other key voting blocs?