Security Moms: Myth or Majority?

Oct. 26, 2004
An exploration of the 'new' market category that's driving consumer habits

It was last year, in the June 2, 2003, when Karen Tumulty and Viveca Novak coined the term "security mom" in their Time magazine article, "Goodbye, Soccer Mom. Hello, Security Mom," and the term has gained traction over the past year appearing in dozens of news reports, broadcast features and cable programs. Even the net's has added the term to its long list of contemporary words and phrases defining it as "a woman with children who believes the most important issue of the day is national security, particularly the fight against terrorism."

In their article, Tumulty and Novak cite a TIME/CNN poll that shows 71 percent of women are more concerned about national security than they were before 9/11 compared to 59 percent of men. Among moms with children under 18, that figure jumps to 76 percent.

In the 2002 mid-term elections, President Bush was the first Republican president in more than a century to see his party gain seats in an off-year election, and for the first time since Reagan, a Republicans president is on equal footing with woman voters, a trend that does not appear to be fading, and one that many suspect is tied to the emergence of security moms.

But not everyone agrees that security moms are just emerging. Atlanta businesswoman Carol Thompson who has five children and six grandchildren doesn't believe there has ever been a time when mothers didn't have their children's safety on top of their list.

"Good mothers have always been security moms," she says. At 65, Thompson remembers WWII and the extreme efforts parents made both here and abroad to protect their kids at all costs.

Many mothers would agree. The Pew Research Center for People and the Press released a report last year that showed an alarming 75 percent of Americans believing the world is a more dangerous place than it was a decade ago, up from 53 percent prior to 9/11.

And that perception of security in the general public is perhaps more vital today than it was in decades past. According to the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics, between 1999 and 2003, the number of homeschooled children rose nearly 30 percent from 850,000 to 1.1 million with more than a third of parents choosing to homeschool because of their concern about the environment of public schools.

But is the phenomenon a myth?

Anna Greenberg, vice president of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, a company which produces survey and focus group studies for U.S. political campaigns, recently discounted the suggestion of security moms.

"Sixty-four percent of women voters are married, but only 43 percent have children under 18 years of age," says Greenberg. "This means only 26 percent of all women voters could be characterized as 'security moms,' if we define them as married women with children under 18 years of age."

Greenberg seems to make a great case against the security mom notion, but her assessment may be weakened by the age stamp she puts into the definition of a security mom, since, as noted by Thompson, security fears for children don't end when they turn 18. In fact, the TIME/CNN poll showed only a 5 percent increase of national security concerns for moms with children under 18. That still left 71 percent of women finding solidity with their younger counterparts.

Even the Washington Post couldn't resist conducting their own poll with purported security moms. According to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll, "Married women with children are worried about the same issues that concern other voters. In fact, these women were no more likely than other voters to name terrorism, security or Iraq as their top voting issue." So it is a top issue. The Democracy Corps, an independent, non-profit organization founded by James Carville, Stanley Greenberg, and Bob Shrum and born out of outrage over the impeachment of President Clinton, not surprisingly, conducted their own survey. Polling over 1,000 likely voters, the group touted the security mom myth citing, in their poll, that the War on Terror was the number three reason woman claimed for supporting President Bush. The number one reason in their survey, with 32 percent of women was "having a strong leader who does what he says," which to some actually resounds remarkably like a national security fear indicator, although the group notes otherwise. But no matter how they vote next week, Republican or Democrat, Green or Libertarian, the security mom is a phenomenon that the security industry needs to hone in on - because while a further interest in security may swing the 2004 presidential elections, it most definitely can boost your security business.