NIU poll: 1/4 of voters would not vote women into presidential office

By U-Wire

DEKALB, Ill. – As the 2008 presidential race heats up, Americans may not be as warm to the idea of a female candidate as was previously thought.

Matthew Streb, Northern Illinois University political science professor, headed a research team that revealed voters’ true feelings on the possibility of a female president.

The researchers administered a national survey given randomly which subtly questioned voters on the notion of a female president. While previous polls show nine out of 10 Americans said they would vote for a female candidate, Streb’s research found that one in four Americans would not actually vote for a woman.

“Our results indicate that a significant percentage of people are hiding their true feelings on questions related to female candidates for the presidency,” Streb said. “Consequently, public opinion polls tend to exaggerate support for a female president.”

Barbara Burrell, fellow researcher and NIU political science professor, agreed.

“Polling is usually fairly accurate, but there is a long line of research supporting the influence of social desirability, or the tendency of respondents to provide socially desirable responses to questions dealing with controversial issues,” Burrell said. “Most public opinion polls don’t tease out whether people are hiding their true feelings.”

Streb saw the research necessary as the number of previously polled voters who would support a female candidate seemed a bit extreme.

“Eighty-five to 90 percent of voters said they would vote for a female president,” Streb said. “I never bought that idea.”

This research may affect next year’s presidential race, as Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., recently announced her intention to run for president in 2008.

“We believe our findings have major implications, both with regard to the future of women in political office and to the accuracy of public opinion polls on certain issues,” Streb said. “While women candidates seem to be making some strides in races for many offices, including executive positions such as governor, the office of presidency may be difficult to reach,” he added.

Burrell feels Clinton will have many stereotypes to overcome in the upcoming race.

“The idea that a woman could be our commander in chief; that’s the toughest one,” Burrell said.