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A History of Americans' Willingness to Make a Woman President

Ninety-five percent of Americans say they're now willing to vote for a woman for president, but their true beliefs may be a bit less open than they say.
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Photo of Hillary Clinton clapping.

Hillary Clinton speaks to a crowd of thousands at a 2008 campaign rally in Philadelphia.

For the first 20 years of Hillary Rodham Clinton's life, time and again, only about half of Americans polled said they were willing to vote a well-qualified woman into the presidency. We've come a long way since then. Now, 95 percent of Americans say they would be open to voting for a female president. (Although there's always the question of people lying to pollsters because they don't want to look prejudiced.)

As Clinton prepares her second presidential bid, we thought it would be a good time to take a look at the history of Americans' readiness for a female president. The timeline below juxtaposes major events in Clinton's career, historic moments for women in political leadership, and regular polling results on Americans' attitudes about female leaders.

Since the 1970s progress has been fairly regular, we found. Yet many Americans are now apathetic; a majority of those polled say it's not important to them to see a female United States president in their lifetimes. If Americans do give up now, it will be a sad status quo they're accepting. The U.S. ranks 72nd in the world in terms of women's representation in political leadership. Clinton's lifetime may have seen extraordinary change, but that change needs to continue before U.S. politics are fair in their gender representation.