On Nov. 8, American voters for the first time in history will see a woman’s name on the ballot as a major party’s nominee for president. A broad majority of voters — men and women — say they are happy this milestone has been reached, but fully half of them say they would have preferred that that first woman not be Hillary Clinton, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
The poll looked closely at women’s political views and broader outlook on American life, as well as how the wider society views the role of women. The survey found that women think that more progress has been made toward ending sexism than racism in society. They value motherhood more than marriage. They think that sexual harassment is a significant issue in the workplace. And they think the greatest problem facing American women is inequality in pay and career opportunities.
Clinton is supported by 52 percent of women likely to vote in November, while 39 percent back Trump.
Trump’s problems with women are significant: 55 percent of female respondents say he does not respect women and about half think a Trump presidency would be bad for women. Only 11 percent think electing him would be good for women, while 45 percent of women say Clinton’s election would benefit them.
Clinton’s nomination has done little to reverse women’s perceptions of gender discrimination in America, and in many cases, their views differ sharply from men’s.
Forty-eight percent of women — but just 35 percent of men — think there are more advantages in being a man than in being a woman in society today. Majorities of women with a college degree, those who identify as Democrats, those younger than 30, those with household incomes of at least $100,000, and black women all say men hold an advantage.
Asked to name the most important problem facing women today, women cited issues related to gender inequality in the workplace, primarily pay, more than any other. Gender divisions were particularly pronounced on issues related to the workplace. Three-quarters of women said women in the United States are paid less than men doing similar work, while 55 percent of men held the same opinion.
“What I see that as a reflection of is that we have a done a good job on the awareness issue,” said Teresa Boyer, executive director of the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University. “The negative is that it still exists.”
Women were also more likely than men to say there is “a lot” of sexual harassment in most U.S. workplaces today — fully one-quarter said so, compared with 18 percent of men. But the same number of men and women, 53 percent, acknowledge that there is “some.” Younger women and African-American women are most likely to say there is a lot of sexual harassment.
A poll of women conducted for Virginia Slims in 1994 found virtually the same result: Three-quarters of women said there was some sexual harassment or a lot in the workplace.
By a ratio of almost two to one — 51 percent to 27 percent — American women think more progress has been made in overcoming sexism than racism in the past 20 years.
But Joyce Coleman, an African-American retired human resources consultant from Southfield, Michigan, said in a follow-up interview that there had been less progress toward ending sexism.
“I’m 71 years old and I was born in Mississippi, so I’ve experienced racism from several different quarters,” Coleman said. She said that although racism had not disappeared, there is “a lot more tolerance,” and she could not say the same about sexism because of “things that continue to happen to women in the workplace.”
The nationwide poll was conducted from Sept. 9 through 13 on landlines and cellphones with 1,770 adults and has an overall margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.
Men are significantly more likely than women to see themselves as ever being leaders in business or government. Nearly half of men say they could achieve this while less than a third of women do. African-American women are much more likely than white women to see themselves as leaders (40 percent versus 26 percent). Likewise, women younger than 45 and those with more education or higher incomes are more likely than other women to think this high level of leadership is achievable.
Carla Lytle, a 52-year-old African-American woman, manages election officials at the Election Commission in Shelby County, Tennessee, and is one of the survey participants who sees herself as a leader.
“Initially I was a stay-at-home mom, and I have a large family: eight children,” Lytle said. “I home-schooled them. I think the leadership skills and things I learned at home I was able to bring to the workplace. It’s just hard work and being able to be structured and organized and sustain a vision: having a vision and working for something.”
Women rate success at work as much more important than their appearance in determining how they feel about themselves, but significantly more think that society places a higher emphasis on looks than their success at work. Fifty-three percent of women say their appearance is very important in how they view themselves, while 71 percent say society judges them by their physical appearance. African-American women are far more likely to rate their appearance as very important.
Fifty-six percent of women think Clinton is a good role model for women. By contrast, in 2007, during her first campaign for the presidency, a Times/CBS News poll found that 70 percent considered her a good role model.
Willa Speiser, 68, a freelance editor in Warwick, N.Y., plans to vote for her but does not consider her a role model.
“I think she’s achieved much of what she has because of who she married,” Speiser said. “I don’t think she’s a good role model for women because it’s not a life path that a lot of women have available to them.”
Significantly more men than women consider marriage to be very important. While 58 percent of men said being married is very important, just 47 percent of women overall said so.
Most women with household incomes over $100,000, those who identify as Republicans and those between the ages of 30 and 45 said marriage is very important to them. But in roughly equal numbers (almost three-quarters), both men and women said being a parent is very important to them. Women under the age of 30 were least likely to rate parenthood as very important, but still, 59 percent hold this belief.
Nancy Brownell, a 74-year-old retired teacher in Houston, said, “I’ve been married 47 years, and I have a good marriage. But it was another time. Marriage was another thing on your list. You couldn’t at that time go to a hotel and check in by yourself. When I went to college, they locked us into the dorms at 11 at night.” Today, she said, “I think a woman can do quite well on her own.”