Support for women in leadership is high. A majority of Americans say that there should be more female leaders in politics and business; that it would improve the quality of life for everyone; and that men and women are equally qualified to be leaders.
Yet despite these beliefs, Americans are skeptical that women will get those chances.
These are the findings of a new poll by Pew Research Center on gender and leadership released Thursday. It found that despite the record number of female candidates running in the midterm elections, American women are increasingly doubtful that voters are ready to elect them.
They’re even less likely than they were four years ago to think voters are ready for female elected officials. Fifty-seven percent of women now say this skepticism is a major reason that women are underrepresented in high political offices, up from 41 percent in 2014. Just under a third of men say so, a share that is unchanged.
Respondents were split, over all, on whether there would ever be equal numbers of men and women at the top levels of politics and business, and women were more pessimistic than men.
Why the growing skepticism, even with female candidates’ success in the primaries, and the momentum from #MeToo and the women’s marches? Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential bid overshadows all that, said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers.
“I think women are probably still stinging from what happened in 2016,” she said. “Whichever candidate was your candidate, the woman with all of the qualifications lost. I think it also confirms what a lot of women have experienced, when they’ve been the most qualified for something and seen it go to a man who is less qualified.”
“We’re just feeling beaten down,” she said.
Women were more likely than men to say there were too few women in office or leading companies, and to say it was harder for women to get these positions. Democrats were more likely than Republicans to say so. The nationally representative survey was of 4,587 adults.
Republican men stood out: Only about a quarter of them said there were too few women in leadership. That’s compared with almost half of Republican women, roughly three-quarters of Democratic men and more than 80 percent of Democratic women.