POLITICS

For Some Politically Divided Couples, This Election Is A 'Trainwreck'

Most couples agree on politics. Meet some of the ones who don't.

If Donald Trump wins the presidential election, he’ll keep the country safe and improve the economy, Kyler, a North Carolina father of two, told a focus group Tuesday night.

If Trump wins, Kyler’s wife Tasha retorted, she’s moving to Italy.

“Are you taking him with you?” the moderator, Robert Blizzard, asked.

“No,” Tasha replied. She didn’t hesitate.

Most Americans don’t have a close relationship with anyone who backs a different presidential candidate. A very small percentage, though, know at least one such person all too well. About 3 percent of voters backing Trump or Hillary Clinton say their spouse or partner is supporting the opposite candidate, according to Pew Research.

The focus group, hosted by the Democratic firm Penn Schoen Berland and the Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies, was the latest in a series focused on “Walmart Moms,” the slightly kitschy term for a swing voting bloc of women who shop at the megastore and have children under age 18. This time, the pollsters brought together five couples who disagree on the election for a political conversation that occasionally veered toward group therapy.

“I really, genuinely think that our marriage has been the worst it’s been ever this season,” Tasha said. “It’s a trainwreck. I have gotten to the point where I don’t even want to hear it. He has to put headphones on to listen to his Fox News, because it sends me over the edge. I can’t handle it. I don’t want to discuss with him, I don’t want to talk about anything, I don’t want to hear anything on TV, nothing.”

Kyler, for his part, said he wants to teach their two teenaged children to consider multiple sources. “What I try to tell them is, you need to see both sides. You need to understand both sides. You can’t just listen to social media, you can’t just watch CNN, if you’re going to do that, watch Fox also.”

That strategy hasn’t worked with his wife. “I want her to do the same. She’s not usually willing to discuss, because it’ll usually get heated, so she doesn’t even want to talk about it.”

 

Politics is not really something you want to talk about. It’s like religion, it’s very personal. Heather, Hillary Clinton supporter

 

Torry, a Trump supporter, and Dontressa, who’s voting for Clinton, watched the debates in separate rooms. He’s already cast his ballot ― so she wouldn’t have a chance to convince him otherwise, she said.

Heather, a Clinton supporter, said she tries to avoid the subject altogether.

“Politics is not really something you want to talk about,” she said. “It’s like religion, it’s very personal.”

“I’m definitely glad that she don’t want to talk about it, because I don’t want to end up in the doghouse,” said her husband Billy, who’s backing Trump. “It’s a difference of opinion.”

Elizabeth, a Trump supporter, doesn’t mind debating her partner Allen.

“We have no problem with it, and we are okay talking about it,” she said. “Sometimes it gets a little heated in arguments. But after that, we look at each other, like, OK, we need 10 seconds, walk away, breathe, come back, talk about it again.”

“She has her own opinion. I respect that opinion ... there’s really nothing I can do about it,” Allen said. “I just go with the flow.” Later, he praised Clinton as a family-friendly candidate, to Elizabeth’s audible annoyance.

“He loves Hillary Clinton,” she said. “It drives me crazy sometimes.”

Allison, a Trump supporter, thinks Clinton belongs in prison. Her husband Jose, who’s voting for Clinton, was born in Mexico ― and quips that, if Trump wins, he may have to move back.

They agree to disagree, Allison says. Jose adds that, as adults, they can hold differing opinions without crossing lines. That doesn’t mean the election hasn’t caused a certain amount of strain.

“Oh, it just infuriates me,” Allison said of Jose’s support for Clinton. “He became a U.S. citizen, and it just infuriates me that now he’s a U.S. citizen and America is your home, but yet he has a lot of Latino friends and to me it’s like he’s on their side, when I am looking out for America’s best interests in the vote.”

“It’s not true,” Jose shot back.

Just 15 percent of all voters say they’ve argued with their spouse or partner about this year’s elections, according to Pew. Even for couples who disagree, getting into fights about it isn’t the norm. Although 41 percent of voters in split-ticket relationships say they’ve clashed over the election, the survey found, 59 percent have managed to avoid any conflict.

In some cases, though, couples may not even know they disagree. As the polling firm YouGov found earlier this month, there’s a notable disconnect between who people think their spouses are voting for and who they may actually be supporting. Forty-five percent of married women say they’re voting for Hillary Clinton, but just 33 percent of married men think their wives are backing Clinton. Husbands were 8 points likelier to be backing Trump than their wives thought they were.

Once everyone’s political differences were aired Tuesday night, the discussion turned more prosaic, establishing that the voters care more about the presidential race than the Senate, and worry about their taxes and health care costs.

But it ended with an admonition perhaps not usually necessary for most focus groups.

“Thanks for your opinions,” Blizzard said genially, bringing the session to a close. “No fights in the car ride home. No divorces!”

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