Disrupt   |  October 19, 2013

What DC can learn from the rest of America

A new NBC/Esquire survey shows that most Americans consider themselves in the center of the political spectrum. Democratic pollster Margie Omero joins.

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>>> well, washington is polarized after weeks of brinksmanship, faux filibusters, shutdown and near default, it turns out that outside of washington there's a lot more that americans agree on than you might think according to a new survey of nbc news and "esquire" magazine. a majority of americans consider themselves in the center and don't fit into traditional definitions of red versus blue . quote, the center is real, passionate and persuadable. it leans democratic but a majority of those in the center agree with a mix of republican and democratic ideas. now, this group of voters show a majority consensus coming to their views of the country. and on social issues, this majority center overwhelmingly backs issues like paid maternity leave, raising the men mum wage, gay marriage and abortion rights . similarly, recent focus groups of walmart moms across the country also show that while they're unhappy with washington , the idea of compromise isn't such a dirty word anymore. did you hear that, speaker boehner? could the mood of the middle have an impact on the 2014 midterm races next year? joining me are two guests. welcome to you both.

>> hi, karen.

>> pleasure to be here.

>> great. m margey i was fascinated to listen to the conversation with the walmart moms and so interesting how, you know, they're definitely frustrated with washington . one of my favorite lines was, you know, they're basically doing everything we were taught in kindergarten not to do but they have a lot of faith in the country, in themselves. they're hard working people. they're making tough choices. there's just a fascinating group of women to listen to.

>> yeah. it was a great project. neil and i have been working together, studying walmart moms for years and we frequently hear moms talking about all the daily struggles that they have. trying to keep the trains running on time in their family. a higher status or lower socio economic status, they have a variety of worries to make sure that their families are doing okay but thinking of washington , they see washington has having gone off the deep end and need to rely on themselves and families and loved ones to have the kind of live they want and look at washington as a place where now maybe a mom needs to come in and step in and clean things up because washington is behaving like a bunch of children. they use that kind of language.

>> neil, i love that part. i love the part -- there was one group i know talking about they were saying basically we need more women . women will come together and get it done and men are too worried about ego.

>> well, you saw that at the end of the focus groups where, you know, one women said we need a tough woman bitch. it's like, whoa.

>> whoo.

>> you know what's interesting about the groups is these women are relentlessly optimistic in their personal lives in terms of their family and how they're trying to insulate their families from the economy and from everything. you know, negative that's happening. but they're also ruthlessly negative to washington , toward the dysfunction here but what i thought was also interesting and you kind of alluded to it but i think these women are losing faith in the country. that there is a sense that america's on the decline and that the future really is a square place for them. and i think you saw that in those groups. the dysfunction of washington kind of comes down to their level and it makes them wonder, you know, when's around the corner? doesn't give them a lot of confidence.

>> margey, a couple of things that's interesting, one, this idea of wanting to elect people who would come and work together and compromise where possible and get things done. i mean, that seemed like a popular idea instead of what i feel like we heard in 2010 which was, you know, burn it down.

>> right. i mean, you have seen this in national polling, too. a majority of democrats wanted democrats to compromise. a majority of republicans wanted to see republicans compromise. and you saw it in the focus groups where moms say, well, just do your job. if you knew what my day was riglike and what i had to do, you wouldn't -- i can't decide today i don't get along with the co-workers and walk out on the job, why do you get to get a half day, get benefits and go on vacation, those are the exact kinds of words they use. they see this different set of standards that washington holds itself to versus what they have to go through.

>> the way they describe washington was in family terms. they describe them as kindergartners or toddlers that can't get along.

>> what i thought was interesting after sort of watching the focus groups and then looking at this nbc/"esquire" poll, the center idea comes through very strongly and struck me in terms of party ideology, seems like they don't want to be identified with one label or another. and that they agree with some ideas that democrats or republicans have.

>> it is really interesting because we're living now in the most hyper partisan political environment that the country's ever seen. in terms of just the partisanship of americans . and you see it exacerbated here in washington . but the same point in time, you have a vast middle out there in terms of ideology and issues so the partisanship isn't matching up to the ideology and the issues so while washington is the worst example of partisanship, those americans in the middle of the 50%, you know, kind of seem somewhat lost in this. you know, i think they feel like there's chaos in washington and frustration they can't get anything done.

>> right. that's the thing. like, what is the goal? you know, there's fighting in washington and just seems to a lot of moms and voters that the fighting is just -- it has no purpose. it's an end of itself. it's partisan bickering without trying to accomplish something to help people.

>> right. i found this all fascinating. i enjoyed listening to the women say, you know, one of the things i care about deeply, voting, staying engaged and sounded like that's something that they were going to stay engained nor 2014 and interesting to see -- i wish we had more time and interesting to see kind of coming up in 2014 if the middle actually has an influence on the outcome of the election and if we get more moderate types or more -- fewer toddlers maybe and more people willing to work together. we'll see.

>> karen, these women voted republican in 2010 and for obama in '08 and owe 12 so they're up for grabs for dle 14.

>> all right. thank you.

>> thank you.

>> thank you.

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