Democrats Face Ideological Split Over Wal-Mart
Attacks on Company May Turn On Liberals, Turn Off Moderates
Several leading Democrats have launched election-year attacks on Wal-Mart, criticizing the company for providing what they say are inadequate wages and employee health care benefits. Yet the party’s rank-and-file is deeply divided in opinions about Wal-Mart, with liberal Democrats taking a much more negative view of the company than do moderate and conservative Democrats.
Most liberal Democrats (53%) have an unfavorable opinion of Wal-Mart, according to a national survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in December. By contrast, 70% of conservative and moderate Democrats – and solid majorities in other political categories – have positive impressions of the world’s largest company.
The complaint that Wal-Mart does too little for its employees may resonate with liberal Democrats. A majority of liberals (53%) say that Wal-Mart is a bad place to work. But this opinion is not shared nearly as widely among conservative and moderate Democrats; only about a third (35%) say that Wal-Mart is a bad place to work, while 57% view it as a good place to work.
More broadly, liberal Democrats are evenly split in opinions about Wal-Mart’s impact on the country (43% good, 44% bad). By greater than two-to-one (64%-23%), conservative and moderate Democrats say Wal-Mart has a good effect on the country. The ideological divisions among Democrats in views of Wal-Mart are evident even when income differences are taken into account.
Fewer Liberals Shop at Wal-Mart
The December survey found that Wal-Mart stores are practically ubiquitous on the American landscape. Overall, 91% say they live close enough to a Wal-Mart to shop there, and 84% say they have done so in the past year.1
About three-quarters of liberal Democrats (74%) said they had shopped at a Wal-Mart in the past year, but just 28% reported shopping there regularly. That compares with 45% of conservative and moderate Democrats and similar percentages in other political groups.
Most liberal Democrats (62%) say Wal-Mart is a good place to shop. But 32% of liberals say it is a bad place to shop; that compares with just 9% of conservative and moderate Democrats, 13% of independents, 10% of conservative Republicans, and 11% of moderate/liberal Republicans who have a negative view of Wal-Mart as a place to shop.
About this Survey
Results for this survey are based on telephone interviews conducted under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International among a nationwide sample of 1,502 adults, 18 years of age or older, from December 7-11, 2005. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling is plus or minus 3 percentage points. For results based on form 1 (N=761) and form 2 (N=741) the sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.
In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording, ordering, and other practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.
1See “Wal-Mart a Good Place to Shop, But Some Critics Too, Dec. 15, 2005.