August 16, 2016

In both parties, men and women differ over whether women still face obstacles to progress

As Hillary Clinton seeks to become the first woman to win the presidency in U.S. history, the public is divided over whether women continue to face obstacles that make it more difficult for them to get ahead.

Just over half of Americans (53%) say there are “still significant obstacles that make it harder for women to get ahead than men,” while somewhat fewer (45%) say “the obstacles that once made it harder for women than men to get ahead are now largely gone.”

The survey, conducted June 7-July 5 among 4,602 adults on Pew Research Center’s nationally representative American Trends Panel, finds significant differences on this question by gender.

A 63% majority of women say obstacles continue to make it harder for women than men today, compared with 34% who say they are largely gone. Among men, 41% think women still face obstacles that make it harder to get ahead, while 56% say those challenges have mostly been eliminated. (For more on women in society, see the Center’s report “Women and Leadership,” released last year.)

There is a substantial partisan divide on this question: Nearly seven-in-ten Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (68%) say there are still significant obstacles for women, compared with just 35% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.

Gender differences on the issue of women’s obstacles are also evident within the two party coalitions. Republican women are divided on the issue overall (48% say there are still obstacles, 50% say these challenges for women in getting ahead are largely gone), but they are more than twice as likely as Republican men (23%) to say there are still significant obstacles facing women today.

A similar, though less pronounced, pattern is evident among Democrats. While about three-quarters of Democratic women say there are still obstacles that make it harder for women to get ahead than men, a somewhat smaller majority of Democratic men (60%) say this.

The gender divide on this also is relatively consistent across all age groups. Majorities of women of all ages see significant obstacles facing women; among men of all age groups, this is the minority position.

Among Democratic men, there are sizable age differences in their views of obstacles to women’s progress. About half (47%) of Democratic and Democratic-leaning men ages 18-34 say significant obstacles make it harder for women to get ahead, while about as many (52%) say these obstacles have largely disappeared. Among older Democratic men, roughly two-thirds or more say significant obstacles still stand in the way of women’s progress.

There is a 25-percentage-point gender gap among younger Democrats over the presence of obstacles making it harder for women to get ahead (72% of Democratic women ages 18 to 34 say this vs. 47% of younger Democratic men). Gender differences are more modest among older Democrats.

However, Democratic men across all age groups, including those ages 18 to 34, are far more likely than their Republican counterparts to say there are still obstacles making it harder for women to get ahead.

Across all age groups, no more than about a quarter of Republican men say obstacles make it harder for women to get ahead. Significantly higher shares of Republican women than men express this view, including 58% of GOP women ages 50 to 64.

Views on gender issues in society today are reflected in general election support in the presidential race. Seven-in-ten registered voters who say significant obstacles still make it harder for women to get ahead than men support or lean toward Hillary Clinton in the general election, while 27% express support for Donald Trump. Among voters who say such obstacles no longer exist, 67% support Trump while 29% back Clinton.

Among Republican and Republican-leaning voters, Trump receives more support among those who say obstacles to women’s progress are gone (91%) than among those who say they still are present (78%). This difference is evident among both Republican women and men.

Clinton receives greater support among Democratic voters who say women still face significant obstacles (93%) than among those who do not (81%). Among Democratic men, especially, far more who think women still face significant obstacles support Clinton (94%) than those who do not share this view (76%).

Note: Full methodology and topline are available here.

Topics: Gender, Political Attitudes and Values, National Economy, 2016 Election

  1. Photo of Hannah Fingerhut

    is a research analyst focusing on U.S. politics and policy at Pew Research Center.