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Wednesday, March 19, 2008


posted by on March 19 at 12:50 PM

While everyone is talking about race in the wake of Obama’s stirring speech two days ago, a new CBS poll finds that gender, not race, may be the bigger obstacle for American voters.

Thirty-nine percent of those who responded to the poll believe a female candidate “faces more obstacles in presidential politics today,” compared to 33 percent who believed a black candidate did. Meanwhile, 42 percent of voters believed Clinton has been “judged more harshly” because of her gender (compared to 27 percent who said the same thing about Obama and race). And 45 percent of those surveyed believed that most people they knew would refuse to vote for a woman candidate (compared to 33 percent who believed most people they know would refuse to vote for a black candidate).

Perhaps most interesting: Nearly one in five of those surveyed (including 16 percent of women) said they would “prefer to vote for a man” than a woman, compared to just five percent who said they’d prefer to vote for a white candidate. Despite all that, just ten percent believed that sexism was “a bigger problem” than racism in America.

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I don't see why it's necessarily a problem that some people prefer to be presided over by a person of a particular gender.

Posted by mattymatt | March 19, 2008 12:53 PM

This is why there won't be an Obama/Clinton ticket, or a Clinton/Obama ticket.

Especially in the Hispanic voting community, that just increases the negatives.

Sad but true.

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 19, 2008 12:54 PM

What did you think of his speech, ECB?

Posted by NapoleonXIV | March 19, 2008 12:54 PM

So does this make Obama a bad guy? Does this make HRC any less of a bad candidate? Or does this reflect that there are more woman taking this poll than minorities.

Posted by Scott Dow | March 19, 2008 12:55 PM

There are 16 women in the US Senate, but only one African American.

Posted by DOUG. | March 19, 2008 1:01 PM

Hey everyone, let's play the "whose a bigger victim" game!

Posted by Some Dickhead | March 19, 2008 1:03 PM

I had a betting pool going with my friends about how soon after Obama's speech we'd get an Erica post about gender bias in this election.

My money was on between 1pm and 3pm yesterday so I'm out $5. Darn! Erica, did one of my friends call you and bribe you to hold off until today??

Posted by Jason | March 19, 2008 1:04 PM

The results of this poll just might be tainted by the fact that even though Hillary is not mentioned specifically, most respondents would have her in mind when answering because she's the current option.

They might actually be okay with a woman as president, just not this particular woman.

Just a thought...

Posted by rlv | March 19, 2008 1:05 PM

So ECB are you racist or sexist? Can you write about anything that does'nt deal with sexual organs this Presidential election? DAMN I'll be glad when HRC loses!

Posted by midnight rider | March 19, 2008 1:09 PM

minorities arguing about who's had it worse... not good. most people think their situation is bad. in fact, we've seen both caucasian women and african americans vote fore clinton and obama respectively in what would seem to be a reaction to a focus sexism or racism. but this this bodes well for clinton, not just because there are more white women (between those two groups), but because of what those stats communicate...

look at those questions:

when you ask who's had it more difficult, and then ask about "most people you know", you are going to get the same view reflected. if you think the press has been too hard on clinton you dislike this not because it affects you, but because it affects others -- the most people you know. this means the person being interviewed is saying something that would seem to say here are more votes for obama, but are actually saying, here's a vote for clinton.

i know that's tricky, and maybe someone can explain it better than i did...

a second example: more people thought a female faces more challenges running for president, but less people thought sexism was worse than racism currently.

Posted by infrequent | March 19, 2008 1:12 PM

I will only trust a poll of black women on this issue.

Posted by fromohio | March 19, 2008 1:17 PM

I wanna know what Oprah says.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | March 19, 2008 1:18 PM

i'm fine with a woman as president, just not THIS PARTICULAR woman.

and that IS post-gender.

the misogynists have to change themselves. you can't make them change.

Posted by max solomon | March 19, 2008 1:19 PM

so "hils" is a woman. we've established that.

I'd like CBS to do a poll where they asked whether they think millionaires "face more obstacles in presidential politics today" than say, someone who makes 100k or less.

I'd like to see if people believe rich people are "judged more harshly" because of their wealth.

The problem with these kinds of binary questions is that you take a generalization--women have a tough road--and apply to a specific person.

Yes. Women have a difficult road and face challenges that men do not. Just as blacks/latinos/etc. have their own unique challenges.

But to take those generalizations and then prescribe them to a particular person--in this case, a rich, well connected, and powerful person--is a complete red herring.

So what, because women have it hard, Hils does too? Even though she has amassed more wealth and more power than hundreds of thousands or millions of white men or black men, or whatever?

In order for these kinds of posts to have any merit, you'd have to also ask if you would vote for someone who was married to a former president. who happened to be bill clinton. or if they would vote for a senator from new york. or if they'd vote for someone who voted for the war.

or they could just say "would you vote for hils?".

Posted by some dude | March 19, 2008 1:21 PM

also, obama's speech was primarily about race, but he included the idea of gender well -- if nothing else by mentioning farraro's comment. i certainly wouldn't jump to the conclusion that obama said
talk of race = post-gender

Posted by infrequent | March 19, 2008 1:21 PM

Come on now @4, ECB admitted that Obama's speech was a stirring response to the race issue being raised, she just brought up the fact that sexism also hasn't gone away. Be fair. And @1, how is that any different from people preferring to be presided over by a person of a particular skin color/culture? @5, you raise a very good point, but keep in mind that women make up 50% of the population, whereas African Americans make up somewhere around 12%. African Americans are still getting the short end of the stick there, but not by quite as large a ratio.

I think part of the reason gender issues can be so insidious is that there are subtle ways men and women differ. These real differences (men and women tend to differ in problem solving approach) give people an excuse to pass their prejudices (women are bad at math, men don't understand emotions) off to themselves as "just being aware that men and women aren't the same."
I'd love to see the sort of evenhanded long term dialogue open up about gender as Obama has justed opened up on race.
And for the record, when this race started Clinton was my second choice (though her negative politics have turned me off since then). With two equal ordinary candidates I'd tend to chose the woman. However, I personally think Obama is the most extraordinary candidate in this run, regardless of race or gender.

Posted by Beguine | March 19, 2008 1:24 PM

I'm just afraid that if we elect Hillary, she's gonna want to take time off to have a kid.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | March 19, 2008 1:30 PM

@17 -
Hilarious. First smile I've had all day.

Posted by tizzle | March 19, 2008 1:35 PM

I'm afraid that if Hillary is elected ECB still wont be satisfied with anything.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | March 19, 2008 1:37 PM


*OMG* Obama totally took away our race-based subversion front with a brilliant speech! Quick, what sort of victim stance do we have to fall back on?!?! Gender? PERFECT!
Attnention fellow Clintonistas: Clinton has it harder and deserves the nomination because she's a woman, got that?

Posted by Banna | March 19, 2008 1:41 PM

You need to present ECB with confounding, compound questions.

ECB, which would you prefer:

1) We elect Hillary, but end up with a new, 33% larger viaduct; or
2) We elect Obama, and get a monorail and waterfront tunnel?

Posted by NapoleonXIV | March 19, 2008 1:42 PM

@1. Really? You don't see a problem with that? In my mind that's the same as saying, I'd prefer not to have a Hispanic as President, or I'd prefer not to have someone from Iowa as President.

I have no problem with saying, I don't want this particular Hispanic or Iowan or woman as President. But, how is it you that you think that saying "I prefer to have a male President" isn't sexist?

Posted by Julie | March 19, 2008 1:44 PM

if we are to accept the results of this poll at face value -- and despite all its glaring caveats, i see no reason not to -- then clearly people think sexism is a big problem in the US. so... why doesn't hillary, as the first viable female candidate, sieze this opportunity to elevate the national dialog on
sexism, just as obama did yesterday with race? as opposed to, say, invoking sexism when wishing for a "more level playing field," or speaking of "the boys club," which come off as little more than subtle plays for voter sympathy, and do very little to affect positive change.

if her candidacy is supposed to shatter the ultimate glass ceiling, shouldn't she go about it directly and unequivocally? one could make the case that she owes this to her female supporters, rather than just making her nomination the definitive make-or-break point for sexism in america.

i mean, even if obama loses the nomination or the presidency, what he did yesterday was historic, and nothing can ever change that.

Posted by brandon | March 19, 2008 1:53 PM
Thirty-nine percent of those who responded to the poll believe a female candidate “faces more obstacles in presidential politics today,” compared to 33 percent who believed a black candidate did ... Despite all that, just ten percent believed that sexism was “a bigger problem” than racism in America.

And what are you proclaiming this poll to mean, exactly? Are you asking us to put stock in people's responses on the former question here, but not the latter, for some reason? Why should we?

And perhaps you might familiarize yourself with the Bradley effect when considering why people might say they're more willing to vote for a black man.

Posted by tsm | March 19, 2008 1:54 PM

Who's in charge of polling at CBS? Gerry Ferraro?

Posted by collie | March 19, 2008 1:54 PM

@14 and @23 are spot on accurate.

Thanks for stating it so eloquently.

Posted by Reality Check | March 19, 2008 2:05 PM


That's an interesting collection of numbers in the survey.

The most starkly frightening results in there for HRC? Comparing polling from January of this year to this result the response to the question q53 'would you rather vote for a woman' moved in a negative direction (3% now vs 7% in Jan) and more likely to vote for a man (17% now vs. 10% in Jan.) The numbers don't really appear to move along racial lines in the same timeframe and fall within the sample error of the results - q50.

Since HRC has been the only woman in the race, it would be somewhat logical to assume that her candidacy is driving those numbers. And driving people out of the 'doesn't matter' category to boot.

Posted by Steve Leonard | March 19, 2008 2:08 PM

This whole poll is bullshit, because in real life most people don't vote for a generic woman or generic black guy. They choose between two specific candidates, both of which will have spent months campaigning and millions on attack ads. Even that guy who says he won't vote for a woman might hold his nose and do it anyway if TV commercials convince him that the other candidate looks too French or sounds too phony or whatever for his taste.

Posted by whatever | March 19, 2008 2:11 PM

So what is the point here? "Everyone is talking about race" but they should be talking about gender instead? This is how you respond to that speech?

I'll agree that lots of people are sexist. And because of that, a female candidate has a steeper hill to climb, in general. It helps if she's already famous for having been married to the former leader - ask Corazon Aquino, and a whole bunch of others. But yeah, women generally have it tougher because of this sexism thing.

Tell me something I don't know.

Posted by Phoebe | March 19, 2008 2:13 PM

I skimmed the post title and read the first paragraph. Then I looked up at the author.


No surprise. Then I scrolled down to the comments without reading the rest of the post. @5 & @6 nailed it.


Posted by Anon | March 19, 2008 2:17 PM

@13 and @14 win, with @20 as runner up in third place.

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 19, 2008 2:19 PM

And 45 percent of those surveyed believed that most people they knew would refuse to vote for a woman candidate.

are we to believe 45% of the population wouldn't vote for a woman? how can that be true? but that's not what it says. it is asking people to speculate about those they know, not provide their own opinion. and we've seen that people will vote for the "underdog" candidate they feel is being treated unfairly.

Posted by infrequent | March 19, 2008 2:22 PM

That's not surprising at all. Who got to vote first?

Posted by Carollani | March 19, 2008 2:26 PM

@13 - yes - and I am tired of being labeled as, or treated as, a misogynist for opposing this particular female candidate. That's just a thoughtless and/or bullying use of the 'gender issue' to try coerce support.

There are however many days when I do feel rather misanthropic... and this election cycle is doing little to disuade me of that :)

Posted by i am not a misogynist | March 19, 2008 2:27 PM

When white women burn down Watts, our country will see sexism as a more serious problem than racism.

Posted by Warren Pease | March 19, 2008 2:33 PM

It would be much more difficult for Hillary to give a speech about the state of women's rights without getting a pounding from the media. The issue of sex discrimination is a fight which is far less united.

She has been a great example of a woman being first at something - first student to speak at Wellesley commencement, first female partner at Rose Law Firm, first female Senator from NY, etc., so I find her life as an example of breaking new ground without needing to make a specially sanctioned speech to prove it.

Now, many people are referring to Obama's speech on race, but no one here is arguing whether or not he can perform a persuasive speech. He can.

What ECB was saying is that gender appears to be a larger hurdle than race to obtain the Democratic nomination for presidency. That's all. Both candidates are making history against the odds (and if you think that Hillary would have gone nowhere without Bill, you probably know very little about her career).

Posted by sugamama | March 19, 2008 2:36 PM

oh well if CBS said it, it must be true

Posted by christianflkr | March 19, 2008 3:19 PM

these polls are very devicive for the american public and the democrats in particular...the media would be wise to stay away...race and gender are major issues around the world and not suprisingly here in the u.s. so the polls are revealing a well known fact. but NOT really surprising. hello, we elected george bush twice. but what do we do with this information. i don't know...right now it really can only be used to explain why obama or hillary may lose the race adn that's about all...down the road it might be helpful in other ways.

Posted by uhmmm | March 19, 2008 3:30 PM

I'd be curious to know how many Black people were included in that poll. Ask a Black person if gender trumps race. Doubt you'd get the same results.

Posted by hunh? | March 19, 2008 3:55 PM

sugamama, he not only "performed" the speech, he wrote it. As you well know.

Posted by Phoebe | March 19, 2008 3:56 PM

#40, I wasn't just referring to this one particular speech. I was speaking generally when I stated the lack of opposition to his ability to perform a speech. And no, I don't "well know" that he wrote it. I am highly skeptical that he authored the whole script.

Posted by sugamama | March 19, 2008 4:10 PM

I wouldnt vote for HRC even if she had a penis. Man or Woman, sheis a monster, a monstrous disgrace. Gross!

Posted by ZWBush | March 19, 2008 5:41 PM

I've heard of people crossing the street to get away from a black man, or being increasingly more nervous if they're followed by a man than a woman.

Of course that might be the trade off of sexism... Men get to be in positions of power, but they are feared because of it. After all, let's not forget that sexism is a two way street-not just AGAINST women, but in some ways against men as well.

Posted by Marty | March 19, 2008 5:58 PM

While I'm not going to debate the merits of these specific statistics, there's absolutely no question whatsoever that racism is a bigger problem than sexism in America. I don't mean to belittle the sexism encountered by many women, but the last time I checked women weren't in jail at a rate 9 times that of men, they don't live in poorer areas than men, they don't get worse treatment from institutions from the courts to banks, they don't get systemically worse educations; when women move into a neighborhood, the housing prices don't drop and the men don't all move out; while there is a difference in wages between men and women, it pales in comparison to that between blacks and whites. I could go on and on. This isn't to say there isn't sexism, or that it isn't a problem. But it really isn't even close.

Posted by Mr Me | March 19, 2008 7:28 PM

sugamama, do you have a reason to believe that he didn't write it, beyond just skepticism? He's one of the few politicians to have written both his books without ghostwriters and Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic says he wrote yesterday's speech as well. It's not a stretch if you've read The Audacity of Hope.

As a Hispanic woman, I'd just like to remind everyone that sexism and racism are not on some kind of even scale that enables us to declare one a bigger problem than the other. They are both problems deserving of recognition, and neither is "worse" or "better" than the other. Comparing them is dishonest and harmful-- it would be more useful to recognize their similarities and declare that we are on the same team.

Obama addressed our nation's racial issues with grace and insight yesterday. While I think Sen. Clinton may certainly be a victim of sexism, I think the reason some find her distasteful has little to do with her gender and more to do with her political persona.

Posted by V | March 19, 2008 9:46 PM

Erica. It's not women, it's this woman. She is a monster. She wants to win, and she'll do whatever it takes. To hell with the country. I can't imagine why you can't see this.

Posted by regina hackett | March 19, 2008 11:07 PM

#45, I wasn't trying to draw a comparison between race and gender issues. However, I was trying to illustrate the difference between the perception of one candidate speaking about race versus the other hypothetically speaking of gender. I think that if Clinton had given a speech regarding the issues of women in the United States and how they could be addressed, it wouldn't have been nearly as well received - even if it were objectively amazing and she had written every last word of it.

My second point was that Clinton had made a very strong case for women in this country, and I think it has been too often overlooked and/or taken for granted in the past few months. She has really been a pioneer for women in politics, and as a result there has naturally been a lot of controversy to follow. She really didn't have a precedent for a strong, powerful First Lady who had an extremely successful career before entering the White House, particularly at a time where the media had so much access to one's personal life.

As I've said before, I think that the negativity surrounding her perceived "political persona" is largely displaced and without much thought.

Now, I appreciate and respect Obama's thoughts. I just don't see that he's done much at all inside the shell of these perceptions. I see him answer questions in interviews and offer policy positions in debates, and the eloquence that so many are fond of disappears into a sea of "ums" and hedged thoughts. This makes me doubt his abilities outside of what his one true strength of giving speeches (or, as argued before, writing them - although I hold the belief that he did not write his speech entirely). I want to see more of what he can do, not just what he can say.

Posted by sugamama | March 19, 2008 11:07 PM

sugamama, I'm sorry that the rest of my comment seemed directed at you-- I know you weren't making that comparison; it's the original Slog post I meant to address. But thank you for responding so thoughtfully!

I like Sen. Clinton too much to speak ill of her. She is my favorite First Lady of all time for her redefinition of the role, and I admire very much her work in support of children, third-world countries, families, and human rights. I don't think that all of the controversy surrounding her has to do with her gender-- outspoken, aggressive politicians often make enemies, though their words and actions are necessary and important to the political process. Sen. Clinton is bright and skilled at what she does. I think she would make a fine President.

Obama's legislative record (which, by some accounts, stronger than Clinton's) is not without merit, at both the state level and the national, especially his work on ethics and transparency, not to mention U.S. Senate legislation about global warming, nuclear nonproliferation, corporate handouts. Inside the occasional pause or "um" is caution-- not political hedging, but an intellectual desire to weigh legality, necessity, and make the best possible statement.

Though Clinton makes a good case, I think Obama makes a better one for what America needs at this complicated time-- an attitude that will involve more citizens, men and women alike, reforms at all levels of government from education to finance, careful consideration of an appropriate economic stimulus plan. I've followed him closely since I read his book-- and if he wins the nomination, I am certain you'll see plenty of action.

Posted by V | March 19, 2008 11:38 PM

Interestingly, most news sources completely drop the last part of Geraldine's statement: 'Or if he were a woman of any color'. Ummmmm. Not enough hype? Or not even on the radar?

Posted by Sandra | March 20, 2008 12:50 PM

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