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Focus Group Report: “Losing the American Dream”

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Middle-class Americans around the nation are experiencing the effects of a weakened economy. And no one feels it more than middle-class women. These women are much more likely to understand the devastation of wage stagnation as they deal with the rising cost of everyday life such as groceries, gas and utility bills. With this in mind—and as part of a larger effort to develop and advocate for our next-generation conservative agenda—YG Network (a non-profit 501(c)(4) dedicated to promoting next-generation conservative policies) and its Woman Up! initiative launched a series of focus groups throughout the country to engage middle-class Americans on their policy priorities.

From June 24 through July 1, the focus groups were conducted by McLaughlin & Associates and included participants from four regions of the country: Phoenix, Arizona; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Palm Beach, Florida; and Manassas, Virginia. Each city had a focus group of tea party participants and swing voter participants.Even though the middle-class women in the focus groups came from different backgrounds, had different stories to tell, and came from different parts of the country—they were abundantly clear: they are concerned about the shrinking middle class.

The middle class has been shrinking in America. Moreover, their finances have been dwindling, as well. And they believe no one in Washington cares. There is a growing concern among middle-class women that no one is looking out for them. As one Swing participant in Phoenix put it, there is a prevalent belief out there that we’re “losing the American Dream.”

The middle class is desperately seeking policy solutions that strengthen the economy, reduce government largesse, help the neediest, minimize government handouts and reward (or at least not punish) those who work hard and play by the rules.  However, they do not have faith in the politicians in Washington to bring about the necessary changes. Women of both subsets were insistent that the country is headed in the wrong direction and that middle-class families do not have a voice in Washington. They agree that there are not enough job prospects for their families or opportunities to save money. Throughout all the focus groups, women felt that the rich were benefiting from loopholes and that the poor were getting too many unfair handouts, but that they—who were working hard and playing by the rules­—could not catch a break.

These women recognized that the challenges the middle-class face are very real, and they won’t go away without serious policy changes. Some specific concerns of theirs include:

 Costs Up, Wages Down

 Affordable Higher Education

Middle-class women are very pragmatic. They are able to see both sides of an issue and expect Washington to be able to come up with practical, balanced solutions. Issues that women believe can be addressed in such a manner include:

Energy Independence and Reducing Energy Costs

Cutting Red Tape and Reducing Regulatory Costs

Reducing Our National Debt and Growing the Economy:

Medicare

Caring for the Neediest: Welfare & Food Stamps

Of course there was no universal consensus on the policy specifics. But it is clear the middle class is hurting, and they want Washington to pay attention to them.

They are, after all, the backbone of the American economy. If the middle-class falls,there will be no recovery.

Click here to see the full Memo.

Click here to see the full findings.