Almost a century (99 years, to be exact) has passed since American women received the right to vote via the Nineteenth Amendment, and while hardly anyone in a recent Economist/YouGov Poll opposes that right, there are still issues where many people find it difficult to believe that a woman can do as a good job as a man.
Six women are running for the Democratic presidential nomination, with one, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, currently polling ahead of nearly two dozen male and female candidates. She is definitely the best-liked: Warren is the candidate Democratic primary voters are most likely to view favorably: 76 percent say they have a favorable opinion of her and just 13 percent are unfavorable.
Only seven of the current candidates have favorable ratings that exceed 50 percent with Democratic voters.
Warren is also being “considered” by the largest share of Democratic voters. However, she is third when voters are asked their first choice: 22 percent choose Biden, 19 percent pick Sanders and 17 percent choose Warren. No other candidate reaches double-digits.
Gender may play a role in that choice. In last week’s Economist/YouGov Poll most Americans said that male and female elected officials would be equally good at doing many things that politicians do – dealing with the federal budget deficit, dealing with immigration, working well under pressure, and handling economic conditions. Women are seen as somewhat better than men when it comes to working out compromises, being honest, and serving as role models.
But men still hold the upper hand with the public on national security. Although half the public believes there is no difference between men and women when it comes to dealing with national security and defense, one in four Americans say men are better at it. Men are slightly more likely than women to believe this. Republicans and conservatives are even more likely to think men handle national defense better.
Some of these beliefs may stem from the popular perception that women are better at caring about people – last week 43 percent say women are better than men at being compassionate and empathetic. Republicans were particularly likely to think that national security and compassion are opposites: more than half of Republicans who said women are better at being compassionate think men are better at dealing with national defense and security.
One striking finding in this week’s poll is that when it comes to specific candidates, the public isn’t confident is any of them – including the current president – when it comes to dealing with an international crisis. Only a third or a little more express confidence in President Donald Trump and in the three top Democrats Biden, Sanders, and Warren. Those three do better than any other Democratic contender, male or female. Among Democratic primary voters, Warren ranks at the top.
While just about half of both Republicans and Democrats in last week’s poll believed the country was ready for a female Secretary of Defense, Republicans were divided on whether or not a woman would be tough enough to handle a military crisis if she were president. A third of Republicans had doubts about whether a female president would be tough enough to keep the country safe from terrorism.