Walmart voters

Ryan Sager:

Back in June, I wrote about a new species of "it" voter. We've had soccer moms, security moms, NASCAR dads, etc. etc. etc. Now, pollster John Zogby is hyping "Wal-Mart voters." Weekly Wal-Mart shoppers make up about one-fifth of the U.S. population, and Zogby found that 85 percent of them voted for George W. Bush in 2004; conversely, 88 percent of folks who never shop at Wal-Mart voted for John Kerry.

The point of my earlier column was that Wal-Mart voters suddenly seem up for grabs in this year's midterm elections. In the depth of Bush's unpopularity this summer, they were giving him a 35 percent approval rating -- compared to 45 percent from born-again Christians, 49 percent from NASCAR fans, and 54 from self-identified conservatives.

So, how have the Democrats chosen to capitalize on this political opportunity? By launching an all-out attack on America's most successful company: Wal-Mart.

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While the Democrats seem quite sure they've captured lighting in a bottle with this anti-Wal-Mart crusade, they might take a look at their recent record of political astuteness and try to sort out the wants of their labor-union base and the needs of average American swing voters.

In particular, a new poll out from the Pew Research Center might give Democrats more than a moment of pause. Despite a relentless anti-Wal-Mart campaign over the last few years -- funded by unions that haven't been able to organize Wal-Mart and that want to keep it from growing its grocery business -- Americans still have very positive views of Wal-Mart. And not just Americans generally, but Democrats specifically.

While the farthest reaches of the Left have bought into the anti-Wal-Mart campaign (53 percent of liberal Democrats hold an unfavorable view of the company), moderate Democrats and independents have not been swayed (by a margin of two-to-one, they think the company has a good effect on the country). Republicans, meanwhile, are virtually uniform in their admiration for the store (73 percent of liberal Republicans hold a favorable view of the company; 72 percent of conservative Republicans do).

What's more, not only do Americans generally like Wal-Mart, they also consider it a good place to work. Only 34 percent of Americans identified Wal-Mart as a "bad" place to work, and they were, again, primarily liberal Democrats.

What seems to be going on here is that, as usual, a fairly massive cultural divide between the leadership of the Democratic Party and the heart of middle America has led the anti-capitalism party astray. Liberals, city-dwellers, and the better-off are all less likely to have shopped at Wal-Mart than those who are lower-middle-class, live in rural areas (especially the South), or are socially conservative.

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The liberals are out of touch. If they started shopping regularly at Walmart they would change their attitude about the stores. It is interesting that those who think poorly of it have not shopped there and those who think highly of it shop there reguraly. While it might be argued that this attitude is a function of the market place, I think it is only for the shoppers. For the non shoppers it is arrogant condecension. These people not only look down their noses at the company, they look down their noses at the shoppers and that is a huge political mistake.

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