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Is America Ready to Elect the First Female President? Essay

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Updated: Jul 7th, 2021

Introduction

The issue of whether the Americans are ready to elect the first female president was immeasurably challenging in recent years. Women’s changing position in society, a developing feminist movement, the growing number of female candidates in politics, and their previous success encourage the re-evaluation of public opinion (Sharma 1). The purpose of this research paper is to investigate the current willingness of American society to elect a woman as the U.S. president.

During the examination of related materials, it was found out that the opposition to any woman as a president of the United States still exists (Corrington and Hebl 31). However, the major part of the society subsequently considers the idea of a female president in a positive way.

Historical Background

Throughout the course of the United States history, 33 female candidates had run for the presidency, and by this day, only men have been elected. In 1872, Victoria Woodhull was the first women candidate for the U.S. presidency. She was an activist for women’s and labor rights, a feminist, stockbroker, writer, and businesswoman (Kotz 589). She advocated the freedom for women to marry, divorce, and giving birth to children without the interference of the government (Kotz 589). 1992 was considered to be the “Year of the Woman” as a record number of women were elected to public office (Cook et al. 6).

Five female candidates won Senate seats, and twenty-four women were elected to the House of Representatives (Cook et al. 6). Over the years, female politicians built stable communication between each other for effective performance (Newton-Small 7). Women received the right to run equally competitive campaigns with male candidates and influence the political sphere of the country.

Gender Stereotypes

In 2008, the presidential election in the United States became a fundamental breakthrough for female candidates. Although Hillary Clinton had lost the Democratic nomination for president, according to Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, the candidate’s sex could play both positive and negative roles (Dolan, When Does Gender Matter? 1). Clinton was the first female Senator who had all chances to win a major party’s presidential nomination with 18 million votes (Dolan, When Does Gender Matter? 1).

Sarah Palin was chosen by Senator John McCain as his vice-presidential running mate is the first woman on the Republicans’ party ticket (Dolan, When Does Gender Matter? 1). Every woman who succeeded in the political sphere across the country demonstrated “how far American women have come in political life” (Dolan, When Does Gender Matter? 1). However, at the same time, they symbolized the inconsistent nature of the public perception of women’s role in politics.

Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton may be regarded as examples of how female candidates face and combat stereotypes and prejudice. The campaign of 2008 was characterized by negative and positive debates concerning the ability of female candidates “to serve in high-level office” (Dolan, When Does Gender Matter? 1). Moreover, subsequent elections proved that female candidates continued to be viewed from the perspective of gender stereotypes (Lizotte and Brunner 53). For instance, Kelly Ayotte, a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat and New Hampshire’s attorney general, faced public concerns that her election in 2010 would negatively influence her role as a good mother.

Being the candidate for the position of Oklahoma’s governor the same year, Jari Askins was pressed to respond whether a childless and single woman had sufficient life experience to consider the issues of average families (Dolan, When Does Gender Matter? 2). In 2011, Time magazine published an unpleasant and insulting picture of Michele Bachmann, the U.S. Representative, when she tried to be nominated as a candidate for presidency from the Republican party (Dolan, When Does Gender Matter? 2).

In 2012, during the election campaign for governor, Lisa Madigan, Illinois attorney general, similar to Kelly Ayotte, had to protect her right to be a mother and a respectable politician at the same time (Dolan, When Does Gender Matter? 2). These few examples represent merely a sample from a wide range of gender stereotypes against women candidates in the United States.

The substantial number of debates concerning the qualifications and characteristics of female candidates and officeholders were derived from society’s reactions and gender stereotypes. People were trying to evaluate whether the public role for women would be appropriate and beneficial for the country. Various political scientists examined the aspects and reasons for “women’s underrepresentation in political life” and discovered that American citizens frequently relied on prejudice and stereotyped thinking about men and women in politics (Dolan, When Does Gender Matter? 2). Voters made unreasonable negative assumptions about female abilities and traits that militated against their political success.

Changing Situation

Nevertheless, despite the fact that individual female candidates may currently experience inappropriate and misogynistic treatment from the public or mass media, the situation has substantively changed for the better. The evidence of a fatal influence of sexism on female candidates is insignificant (Dolan, Gender Stereotypes, Candidate Evaluations, and Voting for Women Candidates 96). Although Clinton’s failure during the 2008 elections could be connected with gender stereotypes by a substantial number of people, it was not her sex that provided an unsatisfying result.

The majority of female candidates succeeded despite primary concerns about their abilities. Ambitious female candidates became the role models for young women (Mariani et al. 716). Kelly Ayotte is currently a U.S. Senator from New Hampshire, and Lisa Madigan has become Illinois attorney general three times (Dolan, When Does Gender Matter? 3). Kirsten Gillibrand, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, and many other women have successfully proved that they are able to combine the roles of mothers and the members of Congress (Dolan, When Does Gender Matter? 3).

Unfortunately, it is possible to say that all these candidates experienced negative attitudes caused by stereotyped thinking, however, it was not determinative (Sharrow et al. 394). According to the analysis of voting records, women win at the same rate as men being on an equal footing (Dolan, When Does Gender Matter? 3). These results demonstrate that the level of female candidates’ representation is not determined by public prejudice or antipathy. Moreover, in recent years, political analysts have noticed a changing attitude of the American public toward the possibility of the first female president’s election.

Public Support to a Female President: Survey of 2016

A woman has never been elected as the United States president since the country’s founding two centuries ago. The necessity of reconsidering whether the Americans are ready to vote for a women candidate arose when Hillary Clinton became “the nation’s first female major-party nominee for that position” (Burden et al. 1073). Burden et al. conducted a survey in 2016 to re-evaluate the attitude of American citizens to the election of the first female president (1073).

Modern multivariate statistical methods showed them that the electorate’s opposition significantly varies across subpopulations on the basis of the political parties’ experiences in recent years (Burden et al. 1073). However, in general, re-deployed conducted surveys indicated that public opposition to the U.S. female president “has been cut in half” since the last decade, from 26% to 13% (Burden et al. 1073). The method of a list experiment was chosen as the main method to conduct the survey as it allowed to avoid the effects of social desirability.

It is frequently challenging to get people’s honest answers by asking them directly. Respondents who do not want to see “a woman in the White House” may hide their sincere opinion and provide untruthful answers due to prevalent social norms (Burden et al. 1073). The list experiment is an alternative option to get unpopular opinions indirectly. The first list experiment that measured the acceptance of a woman as president by the Americans was used in 2006 (Burden et al. 1073). In a nationwide telephone survey, respondents were given a number of statements, and they were asked to choose the statements that made them disappointed or upset (Burden et al. 1073).

One of the positions was “a woman serving as president,” and it was discovered that 26% of respondents were upset with this idea (Burden et al. 1074). Moreover, the prevalence of disappointment concerning the U.S. female president was considerably stable across the country. In other words, people from different demographic groups shared the same opinion, regardless of their gender, level of education, socioeconomic status, and age.

The second study, organized in 2016, had the same framework as the previous one. However, respondents were asked via the Internet. The survey was conducted across specific subpopulations at separate times, while the study of 2006 examined all respondents simultaneously. In recent years, it became available due to the development of more sophisticated techniques that permitted multivariate modeling and an accurate estimation of various demographic or social groups’ influence on individual opinions (Burden et al. 1074).

This survey checked theoretical expectations concerning the public perception of people from various backgrounds who make a political career. The acceptability of different demographic characteristics eventually corresponds to actual experience. For instance, the election of an African American mayor reduces citizens’ opposition to African American candidates in the future as observing the person’s performance minimizes uncertainty or distrust of the people with the same characteristics.

In the case of the female presidency, several women have taken high political positions since 2006. As it was already mentioned, Sarah Palin was chosen as a vice-presidential running mate from the Republicans, and Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, was second in line to the presidency (Burden et al. 1074). Hillary Clinton could become the first presidential nominee from the major party in 2008 (Burden et al. 1074). That is why, in 2016, a substantial number of respondents could imagine a hypothetical female president in the White House as only 13% of them were disappointed with this idea (Burden et al. 1074). The women’s experience and success in the political sphere significantly changed public attitudes towards them.

Female Candidates and Voters

Electing women takes two main things – female candidates and people who vote for them. Multiple types of research conducted by political scientists have expanded public understanding of the reasons why women want to be elected, however, there are few works dedicated to the reasons why they are supported (Dolan, Voting for Women 3). These arguments should be regarded as highly essential due to the current disconnection between the voters’ comments and actions towards women candidates in politics of the United States.

Despite a high level of public support for the female presidency indicated by survey data, experimental researches discover that the biased approach to female candidates exists to the present day. There are specific limits on what the American society knows about women candidates due to restricted data and the undeveloped methods of information search about them. These limitations and a lack of support may be connected with an insignificant number of female candidates for the presidency in the past (Dolan, Voting for Women 4).

As more and more women currently run for office, voters are provided with “the option of choosing a woman candidate” (Dolan, Voting for Women 4). In this case, constituency gives political researchers an excellent opportunity to investigate the attitude toward women candidates without relying on hypothetical election situations.

The reasons for voting for a female nominee were estimated multiple times during the election campaign of 2016. The Pew Research Center conducted a survey and asked respondents about “ten possible motivations for voting for Hillary Clinton” (Blake par. 2). Survey participants predominately emphasized her leadership ability, experience in government, personality, and affiliation to the Democratic party (Blake). More than half of respondents admitted that they would vote for Clinton only because she is not Donald Trump (Blake).

One of the most peculiar features of public opinion reflected in this survey is the highly insignificant role of gender stereotypes. In general, voters were indifferent to the status of Hillary Clinton as a woman (Bracic et al. 281). They could eventually like the idea that the woman had a chance to become the U.S. president for the first time in the history of the country, however, it was “more of a bonus than a true motivator” for voting (Blake par. 6). Hillary Clinton’s qualifications and experience were the principal reasons why she was supported by a large number of American citizens.

Rejection of the First Female President’s Election

Despite the growing sympathy for the idea of the first female president’s election, a substantial number of American citizens reject this variant. However, their dissatisfaction is connected not with stereotyped thinking but with a potential candidate for the presidency in the next election. Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, is supposed to run for president, and a part of the society does not appreciate her political ambitions (Mahdawi).

People do not agree that “a reality-TV star with no political experience” is ready to take the highest office of the country (Mahdawi par. 2). In less tolerant and more religious parts of American society, the level of misogyny is still significantly high, and the idea of the U.S. female president is highly unacceptable (Mahdawi). Nevertheless, there are Ivanka’s proponents who believe that this woman should become the U.S.’s first female president. Mahdawi admits that Ivanka Trump has already taken the president’s post in a figurative sense, as she entered the White House, influence political decisions, and attend international events. She proved that she is not only a caring mother, wife, and loving daughter but a hard-working overachiever with business skills and piercing intelligence. That is why the majority of arguments against Ivanka’s presidency seem unsustainable.

Personal Opinion

From a personal perspective, a woman will be elected as the U.S. president in subsequent decades as the majority of Americans are ready for it. In the present day, stereotyped thinking is losing its actuality as women proved that they could effectively combine the roles of mothers, wives, and leaders. During elections, they are judged as professionals regardless of their sex, and women’s experience, qualifications, individuality, and professional skills play the most significant role. The development of social nets and media technologies provide voters with all necessary information concerning women candidates that was limited in the past decades.

Conclusion

A woman has never been elected as the United States president since the country’s founding two centuries ago. Throughout the course of the United States history, 33 female candidates have run for the presidency, and by this day, only men have been elected. Despite their success, every woman symbolized the inconsistent nature of public perception of their role in politics. Multiple elections proved that female candidates were viewed from the perspective of gender stereotypes. Voters made unreasonable negative assumptions about female abilities and traits that militated against their political success.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that individual female candidates continued to experience inappropriate and misogynistic treatment from the public or mass media, the situation started to change for the better. The majority of female candidates succeeded despite primary concerns about their abilities and proved that they could effectively combine the roles of mothers, wives, and politicians. The level of female candidates’ representation stopped to be substantially determined by public prejudice or antipathy.

The participants of the 2016 survey concerning the reasons for voting for Hillary Clinton stayed indifferent to her gender and emphasized her leadership ability, experience in government, personality, and affiliation to the Democratic party. In general, re-deployed conducted surveys indicated that public opposition to the U.S. female president was substantively reduced. The woman’s qualifications, leadership skills, competence, individuality, and experience are currently the principal reasons why she may be supported by a large number of American citizens.

The findings of this work may be regarded as highly essential as they create the practical and theoretical basis for future researches. The attitude of Americans to the election of a female president will inevitably change with time. That is why the material of this research paper will be useful for the evaluation of public opinion in the next decades.

Works Cited

Blake, Aaron. “The Washington Post. 2016. Web.

Bracic, Ana, et al. “Is Sexism for White People? Gender Stereotypes, Race, and the 2016 Presidential Election.” Political Behavior, vol. 41, no. 2, 2019, pp. 281-307.

Burden, Barry C., et al. “Reassessing Public Support for a Female President.” The Journal of Politics, vol. 79, no. 3, 2017, pp. 1073-1078.

Cook, Elizabeth Adell, et al., editors. The Year of the Woman: Myths and Realities. Routledge, 2019.

Corrington, Abby, and Michelle Hebl. “America Clearly Is not Ready for a Female President: Why?” Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal, vol. 37, no. 1, 2018, pp. 31-43.

Dolan, Kathleen A. “Gender Stereotypes, Candidate Evaluations, and Voting for Women Candidates: What Really Matters?” Political Research Quarterly, vol. 67, no. 1, 2014, pp. 96-107.

Dolan, Kathleen A. Voting for Women. How the Public Evaluates Women Candidates. Routledge, 2018.

Dolan, Kathleen A. When Does Gender Matter? Oxford University Press, 2014.

Kotz, Paul E. “Women Who Have Run for U.S. President—A Historical Look at Leadership From the 1870’s to the Present.” US-China Education Review, vol. 6, no. 10, 2016, pp. 587-599.

Lizotte, Mary-Kate, and Abigail Brunner. “Willingness to Vote for Hillary Clinton for President.” White House Studies, vol. 14, no. 1, 2014, pp. 53-66.

Mahdawi, Arwa. “The Guardian. 2018. Web.

Mariani, Mack, et al. “See Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, and Sarah Palin Run? Party, Ideology, and the Influence of Female Role Models on Young Women.” Political Research Quarterly, vol. 68, no. 4, 2015, pp. 716-731.

Newton-Small, Jay. Broad Influence: How Women Are Changing the Way Washington Works. Time Home Entertainment, 2016.

Sharma, Dinesh, editor. The Global Hillary. Women’s Political Leadership in Cultural Contexts. Routledge, 2016.

Sharrow, Elizabeth A. “Gender Attitudes, Gendered Partisanship: Feminism and Support for Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton among Party Activists.” Journal of Women, Politics & Policy, vol. 37, no. 4, 2016, pp. 394-416.

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