Why Hillary lost? Study finds Americans prefer male leaders

McClatchy NewspapersAugust 25, 2008 

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WASHINGTON — Men and women agree that women are more honest, intelligent, compassionate, outgoing and creative, according to a survey out Monday. But men still get a significant edge as leaders — and from both sexes.

The finding, in a survey commissioned by the Pew Research Center, may help to explain why Hillary Clinton isn't making an acceptance speech this week and why acceptance of women as leaders in politics and business has been slow.

Among men and women whom Pew surveyed, a large majority — 69 percent — thought that men and women made equally strong leaders. But only 6 percent said women made better leaders while 21 percent said men did. Men and women held those views almost equally.

"You've got a public that on some level has a complex mix of views on this subject: admiring of women, admiring of traits that they associate with leadership, (but) not yet admiring of women in top leadership roles," said Paul Taylor, the lead author of the report and the executive vice president at the research center.

He said the researchers hadn't "cracked the code" for the contradictory findings.

The findings are based on phone interviews with 1,060 men and 1,190 women from June 16 to July 16 by Princeton Research Survey International. The margin of error was plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.

Respondents, who were questioned about eight leadership traits, rated men and women as equal on two of them: being hardworking and ambitious. Men ranked higher only in decisiveness.

Only a few more men than women thought men made better leaders. The margin was also small for women who chose men.

Carol Hardy-Fanta, the director of the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, said that women yielded too much when they favored men over women as leaders.

"If women are not distinguished from men in their view of men and women in politics, then there is no hope for change," she said. She said that America's bias for male leaders cost Clinton the election.

Researchers conducted a separate analysis to see whether respondents had skewed their answers to avoid appearing prejudiced. They found no such hidden bias.

On the Web:

The Pew Report "A Paradox in Public Attitudes: Men or Women: Who's the Better Leader?"

McClatchy Newspapers 2008

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