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Most Republican women said gender discrimination is not a serious problem in the United States, according to a new HuffPost/Yahoo/CARE survey.
Only 30 percent of Republican women polled said gender discrimination is a serious problem, compared with 74 percent of Democratic women.
“I’m not saying it never happens, but I think it’s blown out of proportion and used as an excuse,” said Melissa, a 45-year-old Republican survey respondent from Sacramento, California, who asked HuffPost not to reveal her last name because she doesn’t want her co-workers to know she voted for Donald Trump in 2016.
Similarly, only 26 percent of women who identified as Republican said unequal pay between men and women working the same jobs was a serious problem, compared with 63 percent of Democratic women.
(A majority of women in both parties did say gender bias and the pay gap were problems ― but far more Democratic women identified these issues as “serious.” Read the full survey and analysis here.)
Whether or not women recognize the problem, sexual discrimination and the gender pay gap are real issues in the U.S. On average, women make 80 cents for every dollar a man earns, according to federal data. The gap is far wider for women of color.
The U.S. lags far behind other developed economies when it comes to gender equality in the workplace. The country didn’t even make it into the top 60 nations when it comes to equality for working women, according to a World Bank study released last month.
The diverging opinions of Republican and Democratic women line up with their party’s values.
Democrats are typically more in favor of “group rights,” said Jennifer Lawless, a politics professor at the University of Virginia. Civil rights have long been on the agenda. Democratic representatives in the House are working on a bill to strengthen equal pay protections for women, for example.
Republicans are more apt to talk about these issues as something individuals have to deal with and less likely to acknowledge systemic gender discrimination. “The Republican Party sees more of a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps society,” Lawless said.
Some of the Republican women who spoke with HuffPost said they hadn’t experienced discrimination but then described situations that sounded a lot like unequal treatment.
When 75-year-old Myra Best, a survey respondent who said discrimination is not a serious problem, was interviewing for a job decades ago, her prospective employer asked if she had a boyfriend. When she answered in the affirmative, he suggested she wouldn’t be a good fit because she would sometimes have to work weekends. She said she got the drift and moved on to another job opportunity.
Sex discrimination “happens to everybody, but women should just stand up for themselves,” she said.
Other Republican women echoed that sentiment, acknowledging that sexism happens but insisting that women can fend for themselves. Some pointed out that the laws in place are good enough to stop whatever can’t be fought off.
“You gotta be a strong woman,” said Wendy Maddox, a 51-year-old tax assessor from Houston who voted for Trump.
In the mid-1990s, she said, she was overlooked for a management position, even though she was more qualified than the younger men she had to train in her job. She has moved on to a new employer.
Maddox said discrimination and equal pay are less significant issues now than in the past as a more enlightened generation takes over the workforce.
Still, the Democratic women who spoke with HuffPost said discrimination remains a problem. Ximena Cruz, a 21-year-old Democrat who lives in Happy Valley, Oregon, said she was paid less than two of her male peers at a big chain restaurant where she recently had a summer job.
“They were making 10 or 15 cents more an hour for doing the same work,” she said, adding that one drank on the job. “They gave him multiple chances. I’m literally just doing my job.”
Cruz said equal pay is definitely a serious problem. “I’ve read the studies,” she said.
Sexual harassment and discrimination don’t observe party lines, of course. Women are harassed regardless of party affiliation, and male politicians from both sides of the aisle have faced accusations of misconduct in recent years, from Democratic former Sen. Al Franken to the Republican president of the United States, who was sued in January for allegedly paying a female campaign staffer less than her male peers and forcibly kissing her.
But Democrats and Republicans have responded differently to accusations. Franken was pushed out of Congress by his own party; Trump has widespread GOP support.
The GOP is dominated by men. Only six out of 51 Republican senators are women. In the House, there are just 13 women out of 197 Republican representatives ― less than 7 percent.
And the party’s sympathies lie in the male perspective. That was made clear during the nomination process for now–Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual misconduct. Republicans and their allies lined up to support the judge, portraying him as the victim instead of the woman who claimed he attacked her years ago.
The whole episode was framed by the right as an example of how men and boys are under siege during the MeToo era. “It’s a very scary time for young men in America,” Trump said last October.
A couple of Republican women echoed the president. “I raised four boys,” said Best. “I would never want to be the mother of males now in this day and age.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated the number of Republicans and percentage of Republican women in the U.S. House.
This HuffPost/Yahoo/CARE survey was conducted by telephone Jan. 21 to 30, 2019, among a random national sample of 1,008 adult women, with 71 percent reached on cellphones and 29 percent on landlines. Results have a 3.6 percentage point error margin for the full sample, including design effects due to weighting. The survey was produced by Langer Research Associates of New York City, with fieldwork by Issues & Answers of Virginia Beach, Virginia.