The people who would be responsible for electing our first female president don’t seem to care much about making that happen.
The Pew Research Center asked its survey participants about 10 possible motivations for voting for Hillary Clinton. Sixty-four percent said a major reason for supporting her is that she’s not Donald Trump. Fair enough. Another two-thirds cited her leadership ability, and 79 percent cited her experience in government.
The least-important factor of the 10 tested? The prospect of electing the first female president.
This option ranked dead-last in terms of the number of people who cited it as a major factor in their vote. Just 29 percent said it was a big deal to them. It ranked behind her “personality” (32 percent) and the mere fact that she’s the Democratic nominee (43 percent).
Yes, more Clinton voters say her status as a Democrat matters to them than say her status as a woman — despite the fact that we have had 15 Democratic presidents and precisely zero women.
A possible explanation? Maybe people don’t like to think that they are voting for Clinton because of her gender. Maybe they think her qualifications and positions on issues are much more important. Maybe they do like the idea that she would be the first female president of the United States, but it’s more of a bonus than a true motivator.
Whatever the case, this wouldn’t be the first indication that people care less about the significance of the “first [fill-in-the-blank] president” or electing women than you might think.
A Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll last year showed “getting more women elected to office” ranked last out of 11 things that should be a top priority in improving women’s lives. Just 32 percent said it should be a top priority — far less than things like equal pay for equal work and access to quality, affordable child care.
Similarly, a Gallup poll in June 2008 showed just 19 percent of blacks and 5 percent of whites said the fact that Barack Obama was black made them more likely to vote for him. That’s a different question than the new Pew survey asked, but it’s clear people weren’t fond of the idea that Obama’s race mattered to their votes — even in a positive way.
But a candidate’s gender is perhaps a less-fraught topic than a candidate’s race. And in many ways, the Clinton campaign has been more open about pressing the historical significance of electing the first female president than the Obama campaign was in pushing him as the first black president.
The Clinton campaign even released a video at the Democratic National Convention in which Clinton said she just put the “biggest crack” in the glass ceiling yet — after cycling through pictures of the 43 men who have served as president and having their images break like a pane of glass.
It remains to be seeing how much they’ll play up this fact in the closing weeks of the campaign. But for now, shattering the glass ceiling appears to be more of a subplot than a motivation for voters to actually make sure Clinton is elected.