SUBURBAN WOMEN IN IA AND NH VOICE CONCERN OVER ECONOMY AND UNEMPLOYMENTMarch 22, 2012
In March of 2012, Resurgent Republic sponsored four focus groups in Des Moines, Iowa and Manchester, New Hampshire among Suburban Women who self-identified as Independents, voted for Obama in 2008 and are undecided today. Following are key highlights pertaining to the economy and unemployment.
Even in states with unemployment well below the national average, concern regarding the economy remains palpable. The state unemployment rates for Iowa and New Hampshire are 5.6 percent and 5.2 percent respectively. Even so, the Wal-Mart Women in both Des Moines and Manchester described the economy as “uphill,” “unbalanced,” “unstable,” “uncertain,” “scary,” “moving at a snail’s pace,” and “slow moving.” The college-educated women split, with those in Des Moines volunteering positive words and phrases like “improving,” “hopeful,” and “moving forward,” while those in Manchester did not offer a single positive descriptor of the economy. One college-educated New Hampshire women described how any positive economic signs haven’t translated to financial security: “Even if [her husband] has a job or if I have a job, there’s no more feeling that you’re going to have that job. You’re always waiting for the next shoe to drop. It’s a horrific way to live.”
Suburban women believed the underemployment figures or “real unemployment” was a more accurate indicator of the economy’s true health and present challenges. After reviewing the national unemployment trend from 2008 to present, many respondents found some degree of relief that things were starting to turn around, albeit slowly. The somewhat optimistic tone was temporary as the discussion shifted to the underemployment figures, those who want work but have stopped searching in this economy and those who are forced to work part-time because they cannot find full-time employment. At over 15 percent, the underemployment or “real unemployment” rate hit home with these Suburban Women, and they largely believed this topic painted a more realistic picture of the ongoing economic hardship.
Interestingly, these women were unfamiliar with any elected official who was talking about the underemployed – including President Obama – and agreed this issue should be more prominent in the national dialogue. Similarly, across all four groups, a majority of these women knew someone who would fit the underemployed category. In addition, the respondents mentioned others who have been forced to accept jobs well below their qualifications and previous salaries, so from some of their perspectives, even the underemployed rate of more than 15 percent was not a realistic assessment of where the economy really is. A Wal-Mart Woman in Des Moines summed up her frustration by saying, “I think you hear about job numbers and the number of jobs that will be created…but it doesn’t talk about the quality of the jobs.”