If Hillary Clinton Loses the Election, It Won’t Be Because of Sexism

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If anything, being female might give her an advantage now that she’s made it onto the ballot.

By Lisa Wade


Hillary Clinton addresses the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists on August 5, 2016, in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Ever since Hillary Clinton became the Democratic nominee for president, commentators have been speculating as to how much being a woman will hurt her chances for election. The data suggests it won’t. In fact, if anything, what we know about American voting patterns suggests that being a woman is a slight advantage over being a man.

It’s not that there’s no sexism at all. Parents are more likely to encourage their sons to aspire to political office than their daughters. Women are more likely to be overburdened by childcare and housework when they’re married to men. Women are less likely than men to be tapped by powerful political party gatekeepers. And the media continues to produce biased news coverage.

Being female can help or hurt a candidate, depending on which issues dominate the election.

But when women actually get on the ballot they are as likely to win an election as men. In fact, men in the United States seem rather indifferent toward a candidate’s sex, whereas women tend to prefer females.

Gender stereotypes still apply: Voters tend to think that men are better at handling masculine areas of governance like foreign affairs and the economy, but they tend to think that women are better at feminized areas like health care and education. This means that being female can help or hurt a candidate, depending on which issues dominate the election. But, when looked at as an aggregate, gender stereotypes don’t hurt women more than men.

So, there’s one thing we can be reasonably sure of this November: If Clinton loses and Donald Trump wins, it is unlikely to be because the American electorate is too sexist to elect a woman.



This story originally appeared on Sociological Images, a Pacific Standard partner site, as “If Clinton Loses, It Won’t Be Because of Sexism.”