More than half of American voters say they’re ready for a woman president, according to a survey released Thursday.
The nationally representative survey of U.S. voters conducted by women’s advocacy group LeanIn.org found that 53% of voters said they’re “very ready” or “extremely ready” for a woman to be president. An additional quarter of voters described themselves as “moderately ready,” while 12% said they’re “not at all” ready.
However, when voters were asked whether they thought “most Americans” were ready for a female commander in chief, the majority underestimated their fellow Americans’ enthusiasm. In response to the question, “How ready are most Americans for a woman to be president?” only 16% estimated that their compatriots were “very” or “extremely” ready, and nearly half (46%) guessed “slightly” or “not at all” ready.
Rachel Thomas, president of LeanIn.org, said that the research shows it’s a “misguided assumption to think America isn’t ready” for a woman to be president. And the group’s report posits that if Democrats don’t think others may be ready to vote for a woman ― i.e., that a woman would be “electable” ― then they might not cast their ballots for one in the primary.
“There’s a knee-jerk response that people tend to have that men are more presidential and an assumption that men are more electable.... Those are age-old ideas,” Thomas said. “We see men as more electable because that’s all we’ve ever seen.”
A HuffPost/YouGov poll in May echoed the premise that Democrats are looking for an “electable” candidate. Most Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters (52%) said they’re more concerned about nominating a candidate who can win than one whom they always agree with. (Though it’s worth noting that a smaller bloc ― 14% of those voters ― said they planned to cast a ballot for a candidate who wasn’t their favorite but had a better shot at winning, indicating that electability would be the deciding factor in their vote.)
“If we cast aside those outdated notions [of electability]... at this point in the race we’d be focusing on [candidates’] ideas, their experience, what they’d bring to the Oval Office,” Thomas added.
With 20 Democratic candidates still in the race to challenge Donald Trump in 2020, the latest to lead the pack in early polling are former Vice President Joe Biden, and Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).
For the report, Lean In partnered with Ipsos to survey 2,052 registered Democratic, Republican and independent voters from Aug. 7 to Aug. 12 using an online panel.
Its finding that Americans say they’re ready for a woman president has been echoed in previous polling. For instance, a Gallup poll in May asked Americans if their party nominated a “generally well-qualified person… who happened to be a woman, would you vote for that person?” ― and 94% answered yes.
The Lean In report also found that Democrats were the most “ready” among the political parties for a woman president, with 78% describing themselves as “very” or “extremely” ready, while only 23% of Republicans said as much.
Broken down by gender and race, Black women were the subgroup most self-described as ready for a woman president, with 70% saying they’re “very” or “extremely” ready, while white men were the least at 48%.
When asked which attributes would make it harder for a candidate to win in 2020, one-third of voters said it’d be harder for a person of color to win, and nearly half (44%) said it’d be harder for a woman to win. A majority of voters (52%) said it would be harder for a gay candidate to win.
A recent USA Today poll with Ipsos found similar results, showing that half of likely Democratic voters said a woman would have a harder time than a man running against Trump. And even though almost 90% said they’d be comfortable with a woman president, only 76% said their family would be, and even less, 44%, said they thought their neighbors would be.
Female candidates in the race have pushed back against pre-existing notions of “electability” ― which is usually shorthand for which candidates are white and male.
A report in June found that women and people of color were elected at the same rate as white men in the 2018 election, looking at races for federal, state and county offices.
“The conversation too often suggests certain voters will only vote for certain candidates,” Harris, who is Black and Asian, said at an event in May. “And it is shortsighted, it is wrong and the voters deserve better.”
“Women won all kinds of elections,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said at a presidential campaign town hall that month when asked about male candidates appearing to be ahead in early polling. “You discount them at your own peril.”