July 22 2014
Women Candidates: Gender Is a Plus
Patrice J. Lee
Would our country be better run if women were in charge? A sizable majority of Americans think so. Also, they overwhelmingly think that candidates with business and management experience are best at governing.
Gallup just released findings from its poll that asked Americans about the qualities for good political leadership. One of the main findings is that Americans –among all age groups - favorably view female leaders and think they are more than capable to govern. The belief that more women would lead better declines with age, with just barely a majority of 65+ Americans holding that view compared to almost three out of four 18 to 29 year olds.
Perhaps part of that difference in perspectives is that young Americans have never known a time when a woman didn’t hold political office from sitting on the Supreme Court to being Secretary of State.
Additionally, just 55 percent of men think this country would be governed better if more women held offices compared to 69 percent of women.
Across all demographics the percent of Americans who think women will make a mess in leadership is in the low double digits -never even breaking 20 percent.
Overall, self-identified liberals (78%), unmarried women (78%), and women aged 18 to 49 (76%) express the most optimism in female leaders. A large majority of blacks (75%), Democrats (75%), and people aged 18 to 29 (73%) also believe having more women in office would improve the government.
Not all Americans share the same enthusiasm for female political leadership, however. While nearly half of Republicans (46%) feel that having more women in office would result in better government, almost one in five (19%) feel such governance would be worse -- the highest percentage among any demographic.
The same is true of married men (45%) and conservatives (51%), who are more than twice as likely to view more female leadership as a positive, while about a fifth (18%) of each group say they feel governance would suffer if more women held political office.
Although Americans may view certain demographic characteristics or backgrounds as best for leadership in a general sense, that may not be the overriding decision in how they vote.
Gallup also found that overwhelmingly (81 percent) Americans think a business and management background is a desirable political leadership trait. But how seriously should we take this poll?
We might well wonder, if people answered truthfully, how an inexperienced one-term senator with almost no private sector experience (beyond life in the Ivory Towers at Harvard Law School) rose to become a two-term president. And especially how he defeated a noted businessmen and political leader who cofounded a $70 billion investment firm and headed the Olympic Organizing Committee.
And we might also wonder why gender should even be a consideration in selecting political leaders. We’re glad younger Americans have no qualms about electing women—we’re women, after all—but we urge them to pay just as much attention to accomplishments and philosophy as to gender. That is true gender-blind voting.
There’s more to understand about the psyche of Americans' voting patterns beyond just their preferences for business backgrounds and gender. These are questions that will resurface as the sprint to the 2016 elections takes off in earnest.