If Hillary Runs, Polls Say Her Gender Won’t Matter

By Karlyn Bowman and Jennifer Marsico
McClatchy-Tribune News Service (Opinion)

WASHINGTON

Repeat after us: The 2016 election is more than two and a half years away. Hillary Clinton may be a candidate. If she is, Benghazi or Bill Clinton may or may not be issues. Who could possibly know?

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s look at something more interesting, how much resistance there may be to a female presidential candidate and to Hillary Clinton in particular.

Here we have a plethora of polls to provide some tentative answers. Let’s start at the beginning.

In the late 1930s, when the Gallup Organization asked people about voting for a woman for president, more than six in 10 said they would not do so. Widespread doubts about a female president were evident even in the question itself: in 1937, respondents were asked whether they would vote for a woman president “if she qualified in every other respect!”

Fortunately, things have changed a great deal since then. Resistance dropped to around 25 percent by the early 1970s. In 2012, the last time Gallup asked the question, 5 percent said they would not vote for a qualified woman their party nominated.

On the theory that people sometimes conceal their own prejudices, the pollsters ask respondents what their neighbors or co-workers would do, rather than what they themselves would do.

In 2012, when NBC News/Wall Street Journal pollsters asked people whether the idea of having a woman as president would raise concern for them and their families, 6 percent said it would. An additional 8 percent thought it would raise concerns among their neighbors and co-workers. That left a whopping 85 percent who saw this as a non-issue.

A handful of other questions asked in recent years put the proportion of people saying they couldn’t vote for a female presidential candidate at around 8 percent to 10 percent.

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