POLITICS

16 Historical Polls Show Just How Far Women Have Come

Attitudes about gender have changed a lot in the past 80 years.

About 80 years ago, just one-third of Americans said they would vote for a well-qualified female presidential candidate. About 70 years ago, fewer than half of Americans approved of seeing more women as governors, senators, doctors or lawyers. And about 40 years ago, the public was split over whether men were “better suited emotionally” for politics compared to women.

Few would say gender discrimination is no longer a problem ― three-quarters of the public believes women still face at least some discrimination, and nearly half that women don’t have equal job opportunities in the country.

But a look back at past surveys shows just how much life has changed for American women in the last few decades.

  • 1937: 64% of Americans wouldn't vote for a qualified woman for president
    Roper Center
  • 1939: 37% of Americans say it is all right for any woman who wants to work to have a job
    Roper Center
  • 1947: 41% of Americans disapprove of "having more women serve as governors, senators, doctors, lawyer and in other professions"
    Roper Center
  • 1956: 38% of Americans object to women drinking in public places
    Roper Center
  • 1969: 46% of Americans say "working career women with young children" do more to harm than help American life
    Roper Center
  • 1970: 51% of men agree that "leaders of women's organizations are trying to turn women into men, and that won't work"
    Roper Center
  • 1970: 44% of working women say they've had a man take credit for their work (Just 26% of men think this has happened to women they work with)
    Roper Center
  • 1973: 75% of Americans prefer "Miss and Mrs." over "Ms."
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  • 1975: 48% of Americans agree that men are "better suited emotionally for politics" than are women
    Roper Center
  • 1982: 49% of Americans say it's worse for women to swear in public than it was for men to do so
    Roper Center
  • 1983: 55% of Americans say only men should be able to work in construction
    Roper Center
  • 1985: 77% of women feel "a woman has to be much better at what she does than a man is" to get ahead in the world
    Roper Center
  • 1987: 49% of Americans say the trend toward equal rights for women has decreased "the amount of romance between men and women"
    Roper Center
  • 1989: 59% of women say "there is still a need for a strong women's movement"
    Roper Center
  • 1994: 77% of women say sexual discrimination, while "more subtle," remains a problem
    Roper Center
  • 2000: 44% of men say the country has "gone too far" in the number of mothers working outside of the home
    Roper Center
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