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What's the difference between women and men in politics?

Americans generally want more women in politics, in part because they say women will govern differently, but...

Posted: Sep 20, 2018 8:13 PM
Updated: Sep 20, 2018 8:13 PM

Americans generally want more women in politics, in part because they say women will govern differently, but they also see obstacles for women reaching office, according to a new Pew poll.

In the new study conducted by Pew Research, two-thirds of people believe it's easier for men to be elected for high political office than women (5%). A little over a quarter say there's no difference. Men are more likely to say there's no difference in the difficulty of being elected (33%) than women (23%).

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Women are also significantly more likely to say there are too few women in politics today, with 69% who say so, compared to 48% of men who agree. Only a third of Republicans think there are too few women in politics while 79% of Democrats say so.

The most common reason cited for why there are fewer women in high political offices than men is that "women who run for office have to do more to prove themselves than men," with 61% of people overall who say it's a major reason for fewer women, 72% of women who agree, and 48% of men.

The second most cited reason among both men and women is that women get less support from their party leaders, with 43% of men and 61% of women who feel that way.

The biggest difference in opinion for reasons there are fewer women is that most Americans aren't ready to elect a woman for higher office, with a 25-point gap between women (57%) and men (32%) who think it's a major reason women aren't being elected.

Among those who say that gender discrimination is a major reason women aren't elected to high political offices in America, younger women are much more likely to say so than older women -- with 68% of women under 50 who say so and 50% of women over the age of 50 who agree. Among men, there's no real difference in the age groups, with 35% of younger men who say gender discrimination is a major problem and 38% of older men.

More women say that men and women have different leadership styles, with 63% of people who say that they are basically different compared to half of men who agree. Among those who say they have different leadership styles, the majority -- 62% -- say that neither style is better, though women are more likely than men to defend their own gender by saying women have a better leadership style.

On key aspects of leadership styles, women have an advantage over men, with Americans saying women are better at being compassionate and empathetic (61%), working out compromises (42%), and serving as a role model for children (41%). However, the plurality say there is no difference between the sexes on every trait except being compassionate. Men have an advantage over women on being willing to take risks (37%).

Respondents to the poll cited certain characteristics as helping men vs. women when they're running for office, including being assertive, being decisive, being ambitious and showing emotions. The traits that Americans believe help women over men are being approachable, being physically attractive and being compassionate.

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