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Debunking the Debunking of Security Moms

By Carol Taber

Closing in on the '06 election, there has been much talk of the Security Mom, whether she exists and if she does, how she will affect this election and beyond. The mainstream media are eager to portray her as fleeing the Republicans, running to hide from the Foley issue, and these media use certain available - and flawed - research to prove that idea. As a consequence, America is led to believe something that is not entirely accurate.

Recently, on CNN's Paula Zahn show, I was asked if Security Moms exist and if they are influential. The question was an understandable one because there have been polls and research conducted to disprove the inalienable facts about this important voting bloc.

One of these studies entitled "The Myth of the Security Mom and Other Insights from 'Gapology'" comes from the American Political Science Association (APSA). Their premise of a mythical security mom, which the study advances as a group that never even existed, is itself a myth. APSA's research showed that in the demographic measured, "'mothers with children at home', these women were no more likely to vote for Bush in 2004 (49%) than in 2000 (50%), thereby "debunking the widespread 'security mom' theory".

The problem with the APSA measurement is that security moms cannot be defined by a demographic. There are close to 34 million women in the demographic "mothers with children at home", many of whom don't even think about national security, and there are equally mothers outside of this demographic who have, for instance, college age children who are not at home, and who do think about national security as the single most important determinant of their vote. In other words, security moms must be defined with the inclusion of a psychographic measurement that incorporates interests and values, not merely with a demographic one, and both qualifiers must be accurate.

In August, the Washington Post used the same flawed thinking to proclaim, "Married women with children, the 'security moms' whose concerns about terrorism made them an essential part of Republican victories in 2002 and 2004, are taking flight from GOP politicians this year in ways that appear likely to provide a major boost for Democrats in the midterm elections, according to polls and interviews." If the Pew Research Center who compiled the data for the Washington Post had selected their measurement more accurately, they would have found more women the Post highlighted like Dolores Guerra-Sox, a married mother in Sterling Heights, Mich., who said she "will stick with Republicans in the congressional races. 'We need somebody who is not going to make us take more steps back' as she thinks President Clinton did in the 1990s.... 'My interest is what happened to us on 9/11.'"

There is only one research and polling organization I know of that correctly captured the Security Mom phenomenon, and that is Kellyanne Conway's the polling company™, inc./WomanTrend. Kellyanne also appeared with me on the Zahn show. In her organization's 2004 Presidential Election Night survey of 800 actual voters nationwide, Conway found that Security Moms indeed helped to push President Bush past the 50% mark. The study found that although John Kerry won women overall by 3% (while Al Gore had won them by 11% in 2000), "Security Moms (married women with children who cite the war in Iraq or terrorism as the most important issue in deciding their vote) supported the President over Kerry by 18 points (59% - 41%, respectively)." Adding the all-important psychographic measurement of citing the war and terrorism as the most important issue for their vote is precisely what qualifies these women as "security moms". With proof like this, how anyone could say that Security Moms do not exist or do not influence elections is beyond me.

Yet some have. Debbie Walsh at The Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University in New Jersey stated in the run-up to the '04 election that women who fit the Security Mom mold are just the average affluent white women who vote Republican anyway, and did so before 9/11. "A lot of the women who fit into this category are Bush supporters to begin with," said Walsh. "It's a false concept." This is an impression shared by others. Yet turning once again to Conway's succinct measurements, we find this statement not to be true.

As Conway herself states, "Security Moms most certainly are not congenitally Republican." Proof of her statement is how they actually voted in '04. While it is accurate that most of these voters were white (93%), married women with children who cite the war in Iraq or terrorism as the most important issue in deciding their vote, and who voted for President Bush, were comprised of 45% Republicans, 31% Democrats and 25% Independents, or put another way, 45% Conservative, 32% Moderate and 22% Liberal. Hardly the Rush Limbaugh audience profile.

I speak to legions of security moms every day, our organization focus groups with them and polls them, and through my experience of having worked in the magazine industry as a women's magazine publisher, I have for decades researched and carried on national conversations with the women's market. What is different in this election for Security Moms is that the Iraq war has taken some precedence over the overall war against Jihadism (although the statistical variances on this measurement undermine the certainty of this), because they now see Iraq more as a distinct issue than they did in '04. In my opinion, this is a mistake particularly because the Jihadists themselves see Iraq as one and the same in the overall war against them, and Iran wants us out of Iraq so Iran can take her over and build a stronger base for themselves from which to fight the West. Be that as it may, consequently, the jury is still out as to how these Security Moms will vote in '06.

Ironically, on the night of our interview with CNN, that network showed clips of interviews with women in the heartland, all of whom were at their kids' baseball game so they were clearly within that demographic of "women with children at home". To a person, they each said they would not let the Foley issue change their vote, and that instead, they would vote on the "real issues". These women were a selection of Independents, Democrats and Republicans. A "mother-in-law" survey to be sure, but an indication, too, to be sure.

In our own survey which is not nationally projectable but rather a survey of our own readers who self-define as "security moms" and are represented in all three political groups, while there was a 20 point decline in their approval of how the war is going, there was only a 4 point decline in whether they would vote the Republicans back into office. I suspect the reason for this is the following.

Security Moms are a tough lot to fool and a tough nut to crack. They are well informed and well read. Although they are dismayed by yet another Washington sex scandal, they have their eye on the ball (protecting their children) and they have not been deterred from this duty. They cannot be seduced by sound bites and they are not distracted by salacious headlines. What they do respond to are the voting records of Congress. They know about, for instance, Nancy Pelosi's record and that of the Democrat party itself. Pelosi will be our next Speaker of the House (and two heartbeats away from the American presidency itself) if the Democrats do win, and they know how she and her party have voted on national security issues. Their indelible record of blocking attempts to favor Americans' rights over terrorists' rights will cause the Democrats great difficulties among Security Moms.

Security Moms also know that, especially in this time of war and grave peril to our nation, if the Democrats do win, they will besiege and weaken our President with hearings, investigations, impeachment threats and so forth at a time when he must have the full political muscle of our nation completely and unequivocally behind him to stand down the Iranians and the North Koreans, to say nothing of the Jihadists. If we appease these implacable enemies at this critical time in American - and human - history, who knows what the future will bring for our kids?

Security Moms will also consider this seriously when they vote...as should we all. If we have learned anything, it is that each generation must re-earn its freedom, and it is our generation that is now up to bat.

Carol A. Taber is president of FamilySecurityMatters.org, dedicated to providing American citizens with fact-based information on all issues related to national security.

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