Parenting in Politics - Michelle or Ann?

by , Sep 26, 2012, 5:47 AM
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In the immediate aftermath of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, our research, which analyzes online conversations across blogs and social media, found that Moms are intensely involved in how the election season is playing out. 

We found that moms are tough, bipartisan critics. The overall sentiment from moms in their election conversations -- in terms of the volume of positive, negative and neutral comments -- is fairly similar across both President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, with the majority of conversations for both candidates skewing more negative in tone. This is especially true on issues like the national debt, education and taxes, which are the hot buttons with moms as well as the electorate as a whole.

Moms have been engaged in election and presidential candidate conversation since the beginning of the year. We saw “election” buzz peak three times in the past month alone. But what surprised me most was not the expected bump in social chatter after the conventions, but an unexpected surge (+200%) in conversations back in April of this year. The biggest driver of election-related conversations across moms was not in response to the candidates themselves, but to comments about their wives, Michelle Obama and Ann Romney. The presidential campaign got personal with moms everywhere, sparked by the never-ending debate of stay-at-home vs. working moms. The employment statuses of Michelle Obama, a working mom, and Ann Romney, a stay-at-home mom, were at the center of this conversation. 

One conversation thread on Babycenter.com resulted in several hundred comments from moms. Some defended Mrs. Obama or Mrs. Romney, some shared their own choices in terms of employment status, while others argued that this debate shouldn’t even be a focus of the election. 

“I live amongst a lot of women like Ann Romney - just being married to Mitt is probably a full time job. I would not want that world. I am perfectly happy in my upper middle class existence. I am glad I can speak my mind and not have to entertain his colleagues. I do have to work PT to keep our finances in the black but I hold no jealousy or contempt for the super rich.” 

“There's so much guilt-tripping that goes on for dual-income parents, esp when you start getting above basic needs. I think this does a great deal to reassure those families who choose to work so they can do things like pay off debt, save for retirement or college, pay for private school or extracurricular lessons, buy a decent house near work, etc that it's okay to keep working. Just because other people think those things are worth giving up, doesn't mean everyone has to do the same."

"They were not willing to give up financial security (whatever that means to them) in order for Michelle to SAH. There are tons of other families that look at their situation and make the same decision.”

“I have done both and can't stay home. I am way better at life when  I work.  My kids are better off too.  I am lucky I guess I have quite a bit of flex in my job.”

“I'm tired of women attacking women for the choices they make in raising their families.  Why were the comments even said?  She isn't running for president, whether she has worked or not really doesn't have any bearing on it. With the exception of a few, most women are doing the very best that they can for their families.”

Whether we’re looking at news, entertainment or even technology, the one consistent thing we see from moms is that they have a special interest in the personal stories behind the topics. And it’s no different in politics. Personal parenting experiences were a focus in both Ann Romney and Michelle Obama’s speeches at their respective conventions. There’s no doubt that US moms are going to be a powerful contingent in this November’s election, and the candidates and the world are taking notice.

By the way, while we’ll need to wait until election day in November to learn who will be spending the next four years in the White House, if the number of moms who mention either “Vote Obama” or “Vote Romney” predict results, then President Obama, who had more than twice as many mentions as Romney, would win the race today. 

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