Related Topics
election 2006

President Bush Job Approval

RCP Average
Send to a Friend | Print Article

Democrats Make Wal-Mart an Issue at Their Peril

By Thomas Riehle

(LATE UPDATE: This article failed to properly disclose a business relationship between Thomas Riehle's polling firm, RT Strategies, and the pro-Wal-Mart group, Working Families for Wal-Mart.

The data cited in this article is derived from questions Working Families for Wal-Mart paid to have added to RT Strategies monthly omnibus poll. This is a service RT Strategies offers to anyone in return for a fee, but it is most certainly something Riehle should have disclosed upfront when writing an opinion essay about the results. He has acknowledged and apologized for the mistake. We apologize to readers as well.)

Democratic candidates hoping to gain politically by attacking Wal-Mart in this election cycle might want to rethink their strategy. In fact, results from a recent RT Strategies poll indicate such a campaign strategy would be counterproductive. By a 3-to-1 margin, 62% disapprove and only 21% approve of "Democratic candidates making Wal-Mart an issue in November's elections," in the RT Strategies poll conducted June 1-5 with a representative sample of 1,209 adults nationwide. The margin of error is + 2.7.

Almost half of each of the key Democratic subgroups disapprove of this type of anti-Wal-Mart campaign, including 49% of Democrats, 48% of non-whites, 51% of union households (!) , 51% of those who want Democrats to win control of Congress in 2006, and even 50% of 2004 Kerry voters all disapprove.

RT Strategies oversampled African-Americans and Hispanics in order to be sure we had enough adults from these base Democratic groups to draw statistically sound inferences about their reaction to a Democratic candidate who made Wal-Mart the issue in the campaign. On that basis alone, 29% of African-Americans and 30% of Hispanics would vote against that Democratic candidate.

· Democratic candidates face different constituencies in different geographic areas, but it is hard to imagine any Democratic candidates in diverse districts winning with the defection of 3-in-10 African-Americans and Hispanics.

· Overall, 40% of registered voters would vote against an anti- Wal-Mart Democratic candidate, while just 18% would vote for such a candidate--a 2-to-1 margin that would be hard to overcome among the balance who say the candidate's anti- Wal-Mart stance would make no difference.

The temptation to "stand up to Wal-Mart" as a campaign ploy reflects the sometimes cocooning and self-deceptive nature of Democratic Party activists. Indeed, in RT Strategies polls we consistently find that the most vociferously anti- Wal-Mart groups are Northeast and West Coast liberals who themselves rarely or never shop at Wal-Mart, shunning the retailer as not worthy of their patronage. They cannot understand how others fail to reach the same conclusion. At the extreme, such a person as a Democratic candidate for office might even want to suggest a few new laws or regulatory interpretations to help those who cannot help but dally in the devil's workshop.

By staying out of the stores themselves, anti- Wal-Mart Democrats might have missed the fact that:

· 84% of Americans shopped at Wal-Mart in the past year, probably because 81% say it is a good place to shop, according to a December 2005 Pew Research Center poll;
· It is not uncommon for thousands to apply when a few hundred new jobs open up at a Wal-Mart, provoking comparisons that Wal-Mart's hiring team can be more selective than Harvard undergraduate admissions or the high-IQ organization MENSA in choosing which candidates to hire.
· For the average family of a Wal-Mart employee, the company represents opportunity: The vast majority of Wal-Mart store managers rose to that post from hourly jobs on the floor.
· For the average family of shoppers, the savings at Wal-Mart are over $2,000 per year.

Unlike the most vociferous of Wal-Mart's opponents, most Americans do shop at Wal-Mart, and most Americans understand the benefits of Wal-Mart--and do not understand the priorities of those who want to make Wal-Mart the issue.

Many Americans (44%) and most Americans in households that include a labor union member (54%) have heard about the decision of some labor union leaders to wage a multi-million-dollar campaign against Wal-Mart. A Democratic candidate echoing this line of attack would associate his or her campaign with something that people think makes no sense for labor union leaders to undertake, much less for politicians to endorse. Only 13% of all registered voters think this is the right priority for labor union leaders; only 17% of labor union households think their leaders have their priorities straight on this.

For the Democratic candidate who has the idea of making Wal-Mart the issue, ding! No Sale!

Thomas Riehle is the partner in the bipartisan polling firm of RT Strategies, and is a longtime leading Democratic pollster in Washington.

Email Friend | Print | RSS | Add to | Add to Digg
Sponsored Links

Thomas Riehle
Author Archive