Despite Common Concerns, American Women Remain Deeply Divided

Race, economic status and especially partisanship help define what women think and what women want.

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Sharp differences of opinion on gender, sexism and harassment separate American women from each other, according to a new HuffPost/Yahoo/CARE survey. Even though women share some of the same concerns, they’re far from a unified bloc.

Nationwide, the majority of women are concerned about pay inequality and see gender bias in politics. Most are enthusiastic about seeing more women in positions of power in the United States and think American women should play a role in reducing gender-based discrimination elsewhere in the world. About half have faced inappropriate sexual advances.

But as the survey shows, women also remain sharply divided along partisan lines in their beliefs and experiences. (Read the full survey and analysis here.)

About three-quarters of women consider the pay gap between men and women to be a problem. But there’s a huge partisan divide in terms of how women weigh that problem. Where 63 percent of Democrats say it’s a serious one, just 26 percent of Republicans believe the same. Similarly, 83 percent of women, including a majority in both parties, say sexual harassment is a problem ― but 81 percent of Democrats, compared to 47 percent of Republicans, consider it serious.

Unsurprisingly, the divides between Democratic and Republican women are particularly stark on questions of power. Eighty-three percent of female Democrats and 62 percent of female independents think it would be a good thing to have more women in power, a preference shared by just 29 percent of female Republicans, who are largely neutral toward the idea. Seven in 10 female Democrats and 52 percent of female independents see at least a good amount of bias against women in power, compared to about a quarter of Republicans.

There are also partisan differences in beliefs about sexism. Democratic women are slightly more than twice as likely as Republican women to believe that men today generally have things easier. They’re about three times likelier to say efforts to ensure equal rights for women in this country have yet to go far enough. Republican women, on the other hand, are less likely to want to work specifically for another woman, or to actively want more female leaders in their own workplace.

Democratic women outnumber Republican women, especially among younger age groups. Perhaps as a consequence, as other polling has shown, Democratic women largely feel united with other women by their gender, a sentiment that’s shared by relatively few female Republicans. Female Democrats and Republicans, political science researchers have found, don’t have the same understanding of what it means to be a woman ― which means that talking about gender issues can actually exacerbate mistrust between women with opposing political views.

Politics isn’t the only dividing line. Women under 40 are more likely than older women to say that the recent attention paid to the issue of sexual harassment has led them to see some of their own past experiences in a different way. Those in households with an annual income of $50,000 or more are 19 points likelier than those in lower-income households to say they negotiated for their pay the last time they took a job. White women are 16 points likelier than black, Hispanic and other minority women to say they’re very satisfied with their jobs.

But there are still some areas where the vast majority of women agree, often pertaining to their personal experiences at work and at home. Eighty-eight percent of women who work for pay say they’re at least somewhat satisfied with their jobs, a figure that includes 90 percent of Democratic women, 87 percent of Republican women and 85 percent of women who are political independents.

Among women who live with a partner, 53 percent report splitting household responsibilities equally, with 36 percent saying they do more of the work, and just a tenth that they do less. But 71 percent, including a similar share of both parties, say they’re happy with the current distribution of labor, and 77 percent say their partner shows enough appreciation for the share of chores and responsibilities they handle.

This HuffPost/Yahoo/CARE survey was conducted by telephone Jan. 21-30, 2019, among a random national sample of 1,008 adult women, with 71 percent reached on cell phones 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. N.Y., with fieldwork by Issues & Answers of Virginia Beach, Virginia.

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