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Is the U.S. Ready For a Female President?


11th Annual George McGovern Leadership Award Ceremony
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Question: Is the U.S. Ready For a Female President?
Other countries can boast of having female heads of state. So far, the U.S. isn't one of them. The possibility exists with Hillary Rodham Clinton. Former First Lady and New York Senator, she has a track record as an effective leader who happens to be female, and a good chance of becoming the first woman elected to the nation's highest office. So...is the country ready for a female president?
Answer: Depends on who you ask.

Yes, according to a December 2006 CNN poll, which found that 60% of Americans believe that the country is ready for a female president. More African Americans (67%) believe this to be true than whites (58%). (The results were determined based on interviews with 1,207 adult Americans from December 5-7, 2006 with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.)

No, according to researchers at Northern Illinois University who feel that respondents to surveys such as the CNN poll aren't completely honest because they don't want to seem sexist.

NIU's Matthew Streb, head of the team of political scientists who published their findings in the journal Public Opinion Quarterly in spring 2007, explains, "Our results indicate that a significant percentage of people are hiding their true feelings on questions related to female candidates for the presidency....While women candidates seem to be making some strides in races for many offices…the office of the presidency may be difficult to reach."

Yes, says Andrew Kohut, President of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. In a May 2007 report he cites a February Gallup poll conducted earlier that year that indicates 88% of respondents said they would vote for a well-qualified woman for president.

Kohut also points to voting patterns in statewide elections as "probably the most relevant indication of the mindset of the current American electorate in this regard." Since 1998, Pew has looked at exit polls taken from forty elections involving U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races in which a female Democrat faced a male Republican. On average, the female candidates won 55% of the women voters compared with 47% of the men.

When the match-up involved both a Democratic male and female candidate, the women did as well or slightly better than the men. However, when a female Republican faced a male Democrat or a male Republican, the votes were about the same with women voters split evenly between the male and female candidates.

Yes, says former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. He shared that opinion while visiting Los Angeles on October 24, 2007 to attend the Women's Conference, a gathering of 14,000 women organized by Maria Shriver, wife of California governor Arnold Schwartzenegger.

As reported in The Telegraph, Blair observed, "Margaret Thatcher wasn't of my politics, obviously, but my dad was a really strong Conservative and in the 1970s, I remember him telling me, 'there is no way the British people are going to elect a woman as prime minister'. She won three elections. People are less prejudiced than you ever think they are... it should be the best person for the job, irrespective of race, gender or anything else."

Yes, says Condoleezza Rice, U.S. Secretary of State under the George W. Bush administration, "but it's not for me," she admitted in a May 31, 2007 interview with iVillage president Deborah Fine. " I myself am not somebody who believes that I want to do that. But there's no doubt in my mind that America is ready for a woman to be president."


CNN Poll 12 December 2006.

Parisi, Tom. "Americans’ support for a female president is significantly exaggerated, researchers say." Northwestern Illinois University news release 22 January 2007.

Kohut, Andrew. "Are Americans Ready to Elect a Female President?" Pew Research Center for the People and the Press 9 May 2007.

Elsworth, Catherine. "US ready for a female president." The Telegraph 24 October 2007.

Fine, Deborah. "Condoleezza Rice: You Asked, She Answered." iVillage.com 31 May 2007.

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