The Gender Divide: On party, the president, and on national security

January 10, 2019, 6:00 PM GMT+0

Over one-third (37%) of Republicans don't believe a woman president would be tough enough to handle a military crisis

A woman, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, is now third in line for the Presidency. The number of women in Congress is higher than it’s ever been. A female Democratic candidate ran against the President in 2016. And multiple women are contemplating running against him in 2020.

The sexes are divided in how they view the current occupant of the White House, with men narrowly approving (46% approve, 42% disapprove) and women overwhelmingly disapproving (34% to 57%). Part of that difference is because men and women have become politically distinct. In the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, as many men call themselves Republicans as say they are Democrats, while women favor Democrats over Republicans by nine points.

But gender still plays a role in how Americans view the President. GOP men and women are equally approving of him, but women Democrats are even more negative than Democratic men are, and a majority of women who call themselves independents disapprove of how Donald Trump is handling his job.

Not only do nearly all Democratic women in this poll disapprove of the way President Trump is handling his job, but they also are more intense in their feelings than GOP women are. While 55% of Republican women strongly approve of the President’s performance in office (a higher proportion than the 49% of Republican men who say this), 86% of Democrats women strongly disapprove. In contrast, 61% of Democratic men strongly disapprove.

Many Americans want to believe that there are few gender differences when it comes to governing: majorities say there is no difference between women and men in high political office when it comes to dealing with policy matters like immigration, the federal budget deficit, and the economy. The same is true of having qualities like working well under pressure, maintaining a civil tone, working out compromises, standing up for beliefs, and being persuasive and honest, though on most of these areas those who do pick a gender as better choose women more often than men.

However, there are a few areas where women have a distinct advantage when it comes to public opinion: being compassionate, creating safe workspaces, and serving as role models for children. On these issues, men who see a gender difference say women are better. However, there is a perceived weakness for women, too. Three in ten Americans say men are better at national security and defense issues. Among men, this rises to a more than a third.

While there is a large difference between men and women, and between Republicans and Democrats, there is a tendency to believe men are better at this issue, though many still say there is no gender difference. A plurality of Republicans, however, say men are better.

Still, overall 54% think the U.S. is ready for a female Secretary of Defense (19% say it is not), and two-thirds would be at least “somewhat comfortable” with that. Even more (66%) – both male and female alike – believe the country is ready for a women Vice President. By 54% to 25%, they also say the country is ready for a woman President.

Republican men are more likely than GOP women to say they’d be comfortable with a female President. As for Democrats, women are more comfortable than men with that possibility.

For some, it may be the perception of “toughness” (or the lack of it) that results in concern about a woman President. That is a particular issue with Republicans, who are not at all sure that a woman President would be “tough enough” to handle a military crisis, or to keep the country safe from terrorism. Nearly as many Republicans say a woman would not be tough enough to do these things as think she would. Overall though, Americans believe a woman president would be tough enough, with women saying this more often than men.

See full toplines and tables results.

Image: Getty

Explore more data & articles