Friday, January 25, 2008

Do More MEN Think Us Ready for Madame President?

So as part of my participation in the Women's Media Center's new Progressive Women's Voices Project, I've been reading up on polls and found something* very interesting to share. Did you know that more men may think our nation is ready for a woman president than women do?

Historically, women and men have felt almost the same about their willingness to vote for a woman from their party if she were qualified for the job. Acccording to survey data from the years between 1958 and 1969, both women and men said they would consider voting for a such a gal, but the men were actually more positive: 50-53 percent of women and 55-60 percent of men answered "YES" when asked whether they would vote for a woman if she were their party's nominee. Today, of course, post-women's movement, those numbers have spiked. According to a CBS/New York Times Poll in January 2006, 92 percent of respondents said they would vote for a woman from their party if she were qualified for the job.

But now get this: That same year, 2006, when asked about the U.S. public's readiness to elect a woman head of state, much smaller percentages said they thought the country was ready (92 percent versus 55 percent in the CBS News/New York Times Poll). And when you analyze these responses by gender, the men come out on top: 60 percent of men versus 51 percent of women think the country is ready for a female Commander in Chief.

So, ladies, what gives? I asked Ruth Mandel, Director of the Center for American Women in Politics, this question. Her answer was telling. Apparently, the same holds true for African Americans (though I have yet to see the actual data). The group that is historically on the outside of the presidency feels less sanguine than the in-group about the public's readiness to see a member of the out-group at the helm.

Is this some form of internalized oppression, to use a word from back in the day? Or are the out-groups' intuitions right on? Psychology is deep. And so are women's--and African Americans'--feelings about the readiness of this country to elect someone other than another White Male.

But I'd love to know if these percentages have changed now that we've been through a few primaries and have seen that, on the Dem side at least, some states are actually ready to put a Hillary or a Barak in office. Anyone seen any more recent data on "readiness perception"? Thoughts?

*Data drawn from a book chapter, "She's the Candidate!", by Ruth Mandel, published in Women and Leadership: The State of Play and Strategies for Change, edited by Barbara Kellerman and Deborah L. Rhode (Jossey-Bass, 2007). Full chapter available here.


jeff said...

I have one guess at the seeming strangeness of the results: Women--who experience sexism daily--are perhaps more in touch with how men actually react to women candidates, rather than how men say they will react....?

Glennda said...

I love the discussion that's going about about women leaders. Thanks for continuing it, Deborah! Keep up the great work.