Demographic Check — White Suburban Mom Edition
Ian Cook, Alina Croft, and Sophia Day speak with middle aged white moms who live in suburban neighborhoods in Nevada to hear their perspectives of what is at stake for their demographic in the upcoming presidential election.
White suburban women are at the forefront of the Trump campaign’s reelection strategy. He had the majority of their support in 2016 (including 64% of non-college graduate white women), but polling suggests this election cycle is a different story. Graphic by Merisse Garcia and Ian Cook.
The Importance of Voting
Even in an increasingly diverse United States, candidates often hone in on key demographics they believe could win them the election. One particularly contested demographic this election cycle: white suburban women. But what do these women really think and have to say about the country and the upcoming presidential election? Two registered Democratic voters and one Republican voter explained their thoughts and feelings in a way they believed represented their demographic.
Christy Jerz, a 45-year-old mother and Reno, NV, resident, of two adults ages of 21 and 25, believes in the importance of voting, but especially in the politicized climate of this election cycle.
“I believe that voting is critical always, but especially critical for the 2020 election in particular. My husband and I voted together last Friday, we walked to the mailbox at Raleys,” Jerz said. “It felt very unceremonious considering that I always like to go in person to the polls each year. This would be the first time in a really long time that I haven’t voted on election day, maybe the first time ever that I haven’t voted in person.”
Christy Jerz, and her husband Ryan Jerz, with their dog Piper about to drop off their mail-in ballots for the 2020 election. Photo used with permission by Christy Jerz.
An Appeal to Fear
In 2016, suburban voters in battleground states like Florida pushed then-Republican nominee Donald Trump into the White House with their votes. This election cycle, however, paints a drastically different image for the president. According to October polling by the New York Times and Siena College, Democratic nominee Joe Biden is ahead of Trump by 23 percentage points with suburban women.
In the hopes of garnering white suburban women’s support again before Election Day, the Trump campaign is centralizing its messaging around “law and order” after widespread protests over the summer received lots of media attention. It is, in essence, a fear mongering tactic. As polling suggests, however, many white suburban women aren’t interested.
President Donald Trump at a Pennsylvania rally on Oct. 13th said : “Please like me”
Struggling with the Concept of Law and Order
“What am I supposed to be fearful of?” said Mary Ellen Klein, 62.
Klein, a mother of two college graduate men aged 27 and 29, is a Clark County resident and retired teacher. She said several of her friends support Trump’s “law and order” rhetoric. She could not bring herself to agree with them.
“Our Constitution is [about] justice for all, and we do not have that in our country,” Klein said.
Jerz has also struggled with the concept of “law and order” that the Trump campaign has focused on during this election cycle, specifically when laws have been breached by the sitting president to hold events on federal grounds.
“It’s my understanding that you’re using federal grounds in an official capacity to affect the outcome of a presidential election,” Jerz said.
President Trump did stage and record a part of the Republican National Convention at the White House, a move many argued was a direct violation of the Hatch Act, according to the New York Times.
“Joe Biden could have done that because he’s not the sitting president,” Jerz said. “I don’t understand how the same president who loves to scream ‘law and order’ ignores actual laws.”
The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees, but not the president and vice president, from engaging in political activity inside federal buildings or while on duty. The contention is that other federal employees helped stage the White House Republican National Convention events.
Jennifer Novacek posed outside in her suburban neighborhood. Photo provided by Alexis Novacek.
Today’s Political Climate
Jennifer Novacek, another Reno resident and mom of three children ages 22, 19, and 16, says that she values less governmental control in the upcoming elections.
“I want there to be less government. I want to be able to make decisions for myself and my family,” she said.
Novacek says she is disappointed with politics in the United States.
“The current political climate is embarrassing. No matter what side of the aisle we are voting… it’s unreal that this is the best America has to offer. There are better people out there,” said Novacek.
Jerz is in agreement that the current political climate is in a particularly polarized state, but hopes to see change in the future.
“For me overall, I think if you look at the majority of issues I care about, I would like to see us as a country get back to valuing the we, the collective we, rather than just worrying about the me,” said Jerz. “There’s issues that I care about that don’t necessarily affect my own day to day but they affect the day to day of the people I love. I would like to see us return to some semblance of unity and dignity and respect and fricken kindness to each other so that we can actually care about issues whether they impact my six foot bubble or the people beyond my six foot bubble.”
A yard sign in Jerz’s suburban neighborhood. Photo used with permission from Christy Jerz.
Jerz has become self aware that she has a privileged demographic and that others aren’t as fortunate as her when it comes to many subjects.
“White lady here. I definitely have realized in recent years and more so in recent months how much the color of my skin affects the way that I am treated and move through the world. I think to look at a population that was held back for 400 plus years and ask the population to simply pull themselves up by the bootstraps makes absolutely zero sense,” she said. “I think to discount the impact of generational wealth, of generational education, of having the food that you need and the health care that you need, and also all of those basic human needs for centuries upon centuries, you cannot turn a blind eye to the kind of ripple effect that’s going to have among the entire black population.”
Novacek also realizes that there is a disconnect from her beliefs and what is being played out in the political arena, specifically concerning political interactions between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.
“[My husband] and I didn’t raise our kids to treat others with such disrespect as the current candidates are talking to each other,” said Novacek.
Jerz also spoke about some hot-button issues that are on the minds of many voters going to the polls this year.
“The issues that I feel like are at play for this election, I think it’s probably pretty much everything at this point. It’s honestly kind of hard to determine how to rank the importance of one issue over another because there are so many at stake,” she said.
Jerz elaborated on some of the specific instances she felt were really impactful.
“It’s really difficult for me to listen to the friends of mine who are planning to vote for the current president and often their reason seems to be single issue reasons in my opinion. For example, friends who are pro-life. I completely respect people who are pro-life and nobody is pro-abortion, but I can’t look at the government’s response to COVID-19 and say that this government is pro-life,” said Jerz. “I can’t look at the lack of response and the politicizing, and even just the early questioning as to whether this virus was real and say that this is an administration that really cares about the lives of Americans, whether they’re born or not.”
Homemade signs highlighting messages of hope in a yard of Jerz’s suburban neighborhood. Photo used with permission from Christy Jerz.
Novacek says she wants to see both candidates speak live, rather than hear their policies through pre-recorded commercials.
Jerz is also looking forward to the election progressing, especially with what she, other people in her demographic, and every other eligible voter in America can do.
“I cannot think of a single person who I spend time with who I don’t think would vote. I think we all take that responsibility very seriously and it’s one that I don’t see being squandered. I do think other women of my demographic will definitely be getting themselves to the polls and I think based on the turnout historically of my demographic in the state of Nevada, I think that’s been evidenced in the past as well,” she said.
Jerz had some final thoughts on the change that could happen in the United States.
“I think the only way we have the opportunity to make real change in this country is to truly understand what’s important to each individual,” she said. “If each individual doesn’t speak up, and let the powers that be know what it is they’re looking for, how can we truly create a country that represents each of us?”