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White, Suburban Women Are A Coveted Demographic This Election. How Are They Voting?

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And we're going to spend the next few minutes inside a living room in a suburb of Richmond, Va. This is where we gathered seven women together from the left and the right to talk about this presidential election.

Well, come on in.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Didn't mean to be late, but we were trying to figure out...

MARTIN: And we were there in that place, talking with those women because they have become the coveted demographic in this election.

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UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: What this is going to come down to is probably white suburban women...

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UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: Undecided white suburban women.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: White suburban women in battleground states.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: The demographic is white suburban women.

MARTIN: White suburban women are being courted heavily in part because one of the major party candidates is a woman and because the nominee on the other side has made statements on and off the campaign trail that many women have found offensive. Now back to that living room in suburban Virginia.

Hi, Angela, I'm Rachel.

ANGELA COCHRAN: Nice to meet you.

MARTIN: Nice to meet you, too. Thanks for taking the time to do this.

Single mother of two Sonya Arrington has graciously volunteered to host our conversation. We take hand-painted chairs from her kitchen table and arrange them in a semi-circle around the couch. Sonya has invited a couple of her friends, Anne Marie Price and Angela Cochran. Dale Alderman, Janice Igou and then two others, Nancy Frowert and Ashley Hall, are also there. These women have agreed to come sit shoulder-to-shoulder in a room of mostly strangers and get right into the hard stuff of this election here.

I kicked off our discussion by asking each of them to describe how they're feeling about the election at this point and to do it in one word.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #4: I feel somewhat hopeless.

JANICE IGOU: Ready.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #5: Gutted.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #6: I am anxious.

ANNE MARIE PRICE: At this point, I'm rather disgusted and tired.

DALE ALDERMAN: I am actually very excited.

ASHLEY HALL: I am also excited.

MARTIN: We begin with Janice, a Trump supporter who described herself as ready.

Because it's good to start with the positive (laughter) before we launch into the things that might not be so positive. So I'll start with you, Janice. What makes you enthusiastic about Donald Trump's candidacy?

IGOU: I think that Donald Trump has resonated with the people. The most important issue for me is the Supreme Court justices. And I know this is huge for so many folks. But I'm a Christian, and many Christians see this as a point of no return. And if we don't get someone like Antonin Scalia back on the Supreme Court, we're going to never see our country the way we've grown up and enjoyed it to be. And it'll just be questionable what we'll look like as a country going forward.

MARTIN: There are a lot of Christians, of course, who support Hillary Clinton. You're saying for you, though - I'm inferring that you would like to see Roe v. Wade overturned.

IGOU: I am very concerned with Hillary's view on abortion. And this is the biggest burden, I think, for all Americans, is how many lives have been taken under the policies that we have right now. I cannot imagine that that would be furthered, and so any steps that we can take to fix that would be a step in the right direction.

MARTIN: Of course, you know, Donald Trump's statements that were captured on the "Access Hollywood" video that were anathema to many people of faith when they heard those. How did you make sense of that? And where does that fall into your calculus?

IGOU: I mean, Donald Trump is a flawed person. Hillary's flawed. I'm flawed. You know, I get that. And there's been many things about this election that have been distasteful. But all of that aside, these issues are what's most important. And like I said, the Supreme Court justices, the First Amendment, the Second Amendment - these are huge issues that will radically change our country.

MARTIN: I turned to one of the other women in the room who said she was excited, Ashley Hall, who's voting for Hillary Clinton.

HALL: I think she's a passionate lady. She's passionate about politics. Otherwise, she wouldn't have been in it for so long. She was passionate when she was a lawyer and first lady and a senator, and I think that she will carry that passion on into being president.

MARTIN: Do you trust her?

HALL: Yes, I do.

MARTIN: Anne Marie Price was sitting next to Ashley on the couch. She's the one who had described her emotional state of being right now as disgusted and tired.

PRICE: I mean, ultimately, I think I would have preferred somebody with perhaps a cleaner record, like Bernie.

(LAUGHTER)

PRICE: I got a hallelujah there. Just because he didn't have all the political baggage. And these emails certainly are concerning. I don't know that they - they're more detractors. Is she honest? I don't know that that really brings that into question. I think both candidates have huge honesty questions. But I am very impassioned about a woman and somebody that I feel is a good role model for my daughter.

MARTIN: That whoop you heard when Anne Marie mentioned Bernie Sanders came from Nancy Frowert sitting across the room. She's a reluctant Hillary voter.

NANCY FROWERT: Bernie has said vote for Hillary. I plan to. And it's the first time I've openly said that. It's been a tremendous struggle. I've lost sleep about it. I have shed tears over it. I take democracy extremely seriously.

MARTIN: So let's move to the unicorn of the group.

The unicorn here is Angela, the undecided voter.

Everyone agrees that it is very unusual at this point in the campaign to not be decided on the whole.

COCHRAN: It certainly is unusual for me.

MARTIN: Yeah? It's unusual for you?

COCHRAN: Absolutely.

MARTIN: You're usually someone who makes up her mind early in these things?

COCHRAN: I am very clear, very decided. I usually lean middle-of-the-road towards conservative. Active in politics. And even though part of me is so angst-ridden and just frozen, I can't bear the thought of skipping out, even though I really just want to go home and get in bed and pull the covers over my head and it'll be gone tomorrow.

MARTIN: But - so, Angela, you've thought about leaving the top of the ticket blank.

COCHRAN: Yes. But it breaks my heart to do. I can't morally do that.

MARTIN: But you think eventually you will make up your mind.

COCHRAN: I will. And I think it's a situation where at this point, I'm just going to have to go with my gut when I walk into that booth. And it will probably be a third-party candidate. Just...

MARTIN: Would you prefer to vote for the Republican candidate? It's just Donald Trump that's hanging you up?

COCHRAN: Yes. Yes. If there was a choice, I would vote for a Republican candidate. But I can't vote for him. I just - there's no experience. He's proven to be a man of temper and someone that I don't feel I can trust in heated, tense situations when there's a lot on the line. But I get why he's successful. To me, Hillary Clinton represents everything that's wrong with the political machine that is Washington that none of us can really trust. And people don't feel like they can trust Donald Trump either, so it's - where are we left?

MARTIN: I turn to the Trump supporters.

When you hear what Angela's saying, how do you get her on board?

IGOU: You know, Donald didn't have to get into this race. And he is the very first candidate that hasn't needed dollars to do it, and so he's not being bought. I believe Donald loves this country. And I think that he's doing these things because he wants to see America as - again, as I said earlier, the America that we got to enjoy when we were younger.

COCHRAN: I think what I - and I don't disagree with that. I think where I struggle is I do believe he loves America. I don't know that I believe he doesn't love himself more.

SONYA ARRINGTON: But I was going to say, you know, people want - make America great again. And I hear you say, you know, when we were children. Well, when I was a child...

MARTIN: Our hostess, Sonya Arrington, pipes up. She's voting for Clinton.

ARRINGTON: And I'm not going to say how old I am. But America wasn't great for gay people. And it wasn't great for African-Americans. And it wasn't great for Hispanics or immigrants or women. So I don't want to go back there because I want to move forward. And...

MARTIN: Well, let me give Janice a chance to respond to that. So when you say I want my kids, I want future generations to have the America that I grew up with, what does that look like to you? What does that mean?

IGOU: Well, I grew up with one parent as well. My father passed away when I was really young. And, you know, we were just blue-collar, working hard as well, too. But - and that was in the '60s. So you know that - the "Leave It To Beaver" shows and things like that? I think we did have it pretty good. We had...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #7: If you're white.

MARTIN: Janice responds to that by saying that she feels less free today because of more federal regulation. But Dale, the other Trump supporter, wants to take the race issue head-on.

ALDERMAN: I want to respond specifically to something you said. Now, we've had eight years of Barack Obama. Hillary will be a continuation of him. The races have never been more divided except in the last eight years. What had the Democrats done for the black community? Basically nothing. And Donald is exactly right on that. I want to bring up something else. The thing that I'm very concerned about is our national debt. Now, Hillary's going to come into office - she's already said this - she's going to have another stimulus plan. She's going continue the spending. Do you really think we can afford that, girls? I mean, really?

MARTIN: Anne Marie answers her.

PRICE: My biggest thing with this, though, is it's really not the president 100 percent. It's Congress. I mean, come on, people.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #8: It's true.

PRICE: You know, we keep saying the president can do this, the president can do that. Obama has not been able to do anything with the Republicans. They sit and they say, we're not going to work with him, period. And they've sat.

MARTIN: Dale...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #9: It's true. It's true.

ALDERMAN: I can answer that. Yes, Obama has been able to do a lot with establishment Republicans like Paul Ryan. I am not for the establishment Republican stance. And you're exactly right. If Donald Trump loses, I just don't know what's going to happen afterwards because many people who are voting for Trump want massive change in Washington. They want to see Washington broke up, the special interest groups.

MARTIN: Nancy Frowert is sitting next to Dale and nodding.

FROWERT: I think one of the themes we've been talking about in terms of the Donald Trump on the right is the current populist movement in this country. And I think Bernie Sanders really captured that on the left. And my goal as a progressive is to continue that and to...

MARTIN: Can I interrupt you? So you're a Bernie supporter who's a reluctant Hillary supporter.

FROWERT: I wouldn't even say supporter.

MARTIN: OK.

FROWERT: I'm...

MARTIN: You're going to vote for her reluctantly.

FROWERT: I don't want to talk about it, but yes.

MARTIN: You - I'm going to make an assumption - have a very different kind of set of political...

FROWERT: Goals.

MARTIN: ...Ideals and goals than perhaps Dale does, who's supporting Donald Trump. Yet I'm hearing from you a certain kind of understanding.

FROWERT: Absolutely. That's something that I have noted in my own personal discussions with people in my life. My mom is a hardcore Trump - Donald - hard Trump - Donald supporter. Whatever. Dale and my mom sound very much alike. And I think that this populist movement we can all agree is based on nonstop corruption when the top people - you can call it the top 1 percent or whatever you want to call it - are helping each other out. It's all backdoor agreements. It's all I'll help your kid get in here and do a favor for you.

MARTIN: At this point, everyone starts throwing out more thoughts about what's broken in our political system. And then Janice says Donald Trump will help get America back on track because she thinks he'll restore certain values.

IGOU: I think that the issues that he's advocating for are pro-Judeo-Christian values, like what our country was founded on.

MARTIN: Anne Marie then responds to her.

PRICE: I guess one of my concerns with the pro-Christian argument would be adultery, the sanctity of marriage. That kind of bothers me a little bit.

MARTIN: About him. This is Donald Trump's infidelities and multiple marriages.

PRICE: Yeah. I mean, you know, Bill Clinton - I don't say that's fine, too, that any man would treat another - a woman like that. But I guess that's - the Christian values. That's a concern.

MARTIN: These women disagree about a lot of things - Obamacare, foreign policy, immigration reform, even the values this country was founded on. What is clear at every turn, though, is that they are trying to hear one another. They are trying to understand how the others have come to their own conclusions. And they all want to get past the vilification of both presidential candidates. Here's Ashley, and then you'll hear Angela right after her.

HALL: Neither of them are evil. Both of them have raised children. So I think that they both have intentions that are - in their head that are mostly positive.

COCHRAN: I feel, like, somewhat inspired that a group of - a group of us who have never met with extraordinarily different beliefs and views can actually sit down and have a really productive conversation and respect each other's views. And I feel like that has - that's been more than what we've seen in the debates. So I leave out of this feeling a little bit better. Still not knowing...

MARTIN: Decided?

COCHRAN: Maybe not really decided. But when the announcement comes and either Clinton or Mr. Trump wins, maybe we can still find a way forward through all this. And - yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #10: I hope so because you're right. Back to your...

MARTIN: That was Angela Cochran and, before her, Ashley Hall. The other members of that group were Nancy Frowert, Anne Marie Price, Dale Alderman, Janice Igou and Sonya Arrington.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #11: It was so nice to meet you.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #12: Nice to meet you.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #13: Bye. Thank you guys.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #14: Bye.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #15: Bye.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #16: Bye, everyone. We should all have a barbecue after the...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #17: I know. I'm like... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.