Half Of American Men Still Aren’t Ready For Female Political Leaders

Supermajority Education Fund

November 19, 2019

More women than ever are competing for the Democratic nomination, but a new study has found that many Americans still aren’t ready for women to lead their government. In fact, half of American men are uncomfortable with female political leaders

Conducted by consulting firm Kantar and Iceland-based nonprofit Women Political Leaders (WPL), The Reykjavik Index for Leadership is a survey based on information collected from 22,000 adults between the ages of 18 and 64 across 11 countries. This is the second year that Kantar and WPL have conducted this study, but the first time that it has included countries outside of the Group of Seven (G7), including India, China, Russia, and Brazil. 

Overall, 2,000 Americans were involved in the study. Of the American men surveyed, just 49 percent said they’d be “very comfortable” with women at the head of government. Unfortunately, women’s responses weren’t much better: only 59 percent said they would be comfortable with a woman leader. 

These responses shouldn’t be a surprise, though, considering that a 2010 study showed that when people are asked to think of a politician’s traits, most will come up with characteristics commonly associated with masculinity, such as ambition and aggressiveness. A 2019 study further examined how gender influences political behavior. For example, researchers used a fake campaign and found that voters viewed female candidates as less competent than male candidates. Nichole Bauer, a professor at Louisiana State University who studies political psychology, confirmed this to FiveThirtyEight this summer, stating, “Men have a leg up in politics because there’s a basic assumption that they’re qualified to run.” 

Out of all the countries included in the study, however, respondents from the United States still ranked third in the study’s index, which the researchers created based on how equally women and men were viewed as capable leaders — with 100 indicating perfect equality. The United States received a total index score of 75 while Germany and France tied for first, with a score of 77. While the United Kingdom had previously held the coveted first spot, this year, the U.K.’s score fell from 77 to 73 points because of worsening male perceptions. 

“Evidence is a crucial tool to measure our social norms. Without evidence, we cannot hold ourselves, our leaders, or our actions to account,” Dr. Michelle Harrison, Global CEO, Public Division, Kantar, said in a statement. “This year’s study reveals that in every country studied, there are significant prejudices against women and that we have a long way to go until equality is the social norm. The Reykjavik Index for Leadership will measure our progress on the journey ahead of us.”