May 22, 2020 - Politics & Policy

What Zoom women are saying

Illustration of a laptop open to zoom with dozens of screens featuring women

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Some women are eager participants as the coronavirus spurs conversations about politics on video calls with their families and friends. Others are less enthusiastic about the trend.

Here's how women describe their Zoom conversations about politics — and how they're wrestling with what those talks mean for November.

Kim Earney, 50, a Democrat in Alabama, uses video calls with her sister in California to vent freely about President Trump. That's something she's reluctant to do with friends locally, some of whom support him.

  • She's eager for opportunities to participate in more small-group video calls where election-related discourse is welcome, and she thinks campaigns should organize these.
  • "If you’re targeting a Trump supporter, most of the time you’re not going to be able to change their mind," she says. "But I think it could definitely draw in some independents and some people who are on the fence. I wish the campaigns would do more of that."

Esra Sander, 47, a Republican from the Chicago suburbs who works in business development, says politics don't really come up on her weekly video call with girlfriends and that she has a low tolerance for it on a separate weekly call with relatives. She's not looking for more.

  • She said she voted for Trump the first time, doesn't know if she will again, takes the question seriously, and is considering a number of factors. But she isn't convinced that hashing the question out with others is a productive exercise.
  • "If I have to do anything virtually on the internet after my work stuff and the family chats, I’m totally not interested."

Stephanie D., a Republican from Ohio and a 37-year-old mother of four, said she does a weekly video call with relatives in which politics comes up as it never did before. She participated in Axios-Ipsos' coronavirus polling but declined to be quoted by her full name for this story.

  • All see President Trump as so divisive a subject that usually instead of saying his name, "They say the things around it," such as debating whether masks are an encroachment on freedom or a public safety measure.
  • She voted for Trump in 2016, but pauses when asked about this year. “That’s the big question, right: 'What are the moms that voted for Trump going to do?'"
  • "I have been praying for some other option. I don’t want to vote Democrat because I am very pro-life” and Democrats support abortion rights.

With Trump, she said, "Everybody knew he was a loose cannon and crazy Twitterer, but he had a hold on the economy and he was putting conservative people on the Supreme Court. So it was, hold your nose and vote for him."

  • "But it seems like he’s not making the best scientific decisions. I feel dissatisfied with his decisions, but everyone’s dissatisfied about everything right now."
  • The coronavirus also is testing her notion of what it means to be "pro-life." If you knowingly open the economy too soon, she says, "You’re just sacrificing life for the economy. How is that different from sacrificing a baby for your own personal life goals?"
  • "At the same time, closing the economy makes people starve. I can’t work it out in my head."

What's next: MomsRising, a political organization that says it has 1 million members, has been gathering moms together in small and large groups over Zoom to talk about parenting, politics and everything in between.

  • A recent call covered how to access certain benefits of Congress' coronavirus relief package, such as paid sick leave and unemployment insurance.

Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, executive director and co-founder of the organization, tells Axios that no matter what the official topic is, politics always comes up.

  • "What we’re seeing right now is like the precursor to 2018 but amplified," she says. "There’s a wave of change rising across the country, moms talking to moms, off and on Zoom, and we’re going to see changes because of that at the ballot box in November 2020."
  • Her members mostly identify as progressives, but some are independents. "What we’re hearing is that the impact of the pandemic has made people even more concerned about Donald Trump no matter where they are in the political spectrum."

Go deeper: Read our piece on the "Zoom moms" trend

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