Monday, December 10, 2007

NO-bama

I'm a few days late posting a link to this op-ed about Senator Obama's largely unfounded attacks on my gal Hill, but here it is anyway.

My favorite points?

Your position on the Iran Resolution. You criticized Sen. Clinton's vote in September supporting a Senate resolution asking the U.S. government to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRG) as a "foreign terrorist organization," …. Yet you failed to disclose that you had co-sponsored a Senate Resolution (S. 970) in March 2007 that used exactly the same language to designate the IRG a "foreign terrorist organization."

And...

Your position on the Iraq war. You have criticized Sen. Clinton for supporting the October 2002 Iraq war resolution (just as the governor of your state, Rod R. Blagojevich, did when he was in the House of Representatives, as did former Sen. Max Cleland, who lost two arms and a leg in the Vietnam War, and 29 Democratic senators). You claim to have been opposed to that resolution before you became a U.S. senator.

Yet when you were asked in the fall of 2004, as a candidate for the U.S. Senate, how you would have voted on that resolution had you been a U.S. senator, you were quoted in The Chicago Tribune answering, “I don’t know.” Then in March 2007, your press secretary refused “eight times” to answer a New York Times reporter’s question as to why you couldn’t answer that question back in 2004. When pressed again, he said you refused to answer such a “hypothetical” question. So how can you accurately say that you opposed the war resolution when you said “I don’t know” — and how is it fair to criticize Sen. Clinton’s (and Gov. Blagojevich’s) judgment for doing so at that time — when she says today, “Had I known then what I know now [that there were no WMDs in Iraq], I would not have voted for that resolution”?

You also voted against Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) amendment in the summer of 2006 to set a deadline on withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq (as did Sen. Clinton and most Senate Democrats). Yet I don’t think you have ever reminded voters about that vote since you began your presidential campaign.

More OhKermie posting to come in the weeks ahead... sorry for being MIA!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Sex Matters in '08

Like it or not, sex matters in this election. Even Texas Republicans say so!

Independent evidence indicates that her sex is a strong asset in seeking the Democratic nomination. And while it would be premature to say for sure that it will help in the general election, initial signs are that it will be a plus, something a prominent Texas Republican pollster says his party has failed to recognize.

"Republicans underestimate the very powerful symbolism and feel-good emotions that would accompany electing the first woman president," said Dr. David Hill of Houston, director of Hill Research Consultants. "It's a big deal."

And remember yesterday's post?

"Before this is over, Hillary's candidacy will have more in common with Amelia Earhart's first trans-Atlantic flight or Sally K. Ride's first trip into space than Helmsley's heartlessness," he wrote.

...Mark today on your calendar - it's the one time this year I'll agree with a Texan.

And in case the cowboy rhetoric isn't enough to convince you, some empirical evidence that the "uterus vote" makes a critical difference:

Andrew Kohut of the independent Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, said a study of 40 statewide elections showed that female Democrats did better against male Republicans, largely because they did better among women and no worse among men.

Though conceding that some find Mrs. Clinton "more polarizing" than some other female candidates, Mr. Kohut suggested she would enjoy a similar advantage. He said the Pew study showed that "the gender differences in support for Clinton at this early stage in the campaign are, on average, typical for Democratic women who run for statewide office."

Her advantage is most obvious in polls of prospective Democratic primary and caucus voters. The latest USA Today/Gallup poll shows that she attracts 55 percent of women, compared with 44 percent of men. By contrast, Sen. Barack Obama gets 23 percent of women and 20 percent of men.

2008 will be so fun :)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Note on that Glass Ceiling

... it's coming down.

Early this spring I wrote a hopeful piece about Clinton's bid for the presidency, her showing in the polls, and how the tradition of public opinion research supports her electability as a candidate. Since that time, Hillary's numbers and my support for the nation's first viable female presidential candidate have continued to soar (and yes, I recognize that I'm using biased and flamboyant language right now... I'm emotional).

Today especially, my support for Hillary was reaffirmed after watching footage from her Monday appearance The View. (Before you rush to say that I'm 2 days late, remember that I'm a full-time student with a 20-hour/week job and a campaign internship, so my View-watching is limited to late-night clip hunting on YouTube).

There still is a tougher standard for women, especially running for president. We’ve all been through it, in some way or another – where you go and you try to break a barrier, you do the best you can, and people are saying “I don’t like her clothes,” or “I don’t like her hair.” But I think we’re getting beyond that. One of the exciting parts of my campaign is how many people are so personally invested in this.

Everywhere I go around the country, there are two groups of people that I am particularly touched by. All these women in their nineties come to my events, and they come – they wait – sometimes they’re in wheelchairs or walkers, and they have their daughter or granddaughter bring them – and then when I’m going around shaking hands, they’ll say: ‘I’m 95 years old and I was born before women could vote. I want to live long enough to see a woman in the White House.’

The other group are parents who bring their children, particularly their daughters. After I make a speech, I go out and shake hands with everybody… I’ll hear a father or a mother lean over and say to their little girl, ‘See honey, you can be anything you want to be.’ I makes me get a welled-up sort of feeling, because my parents told me that. Not that it was true back then, but, we’ve broken a lot of barriers.

Say what you want about the relevance of political rhetoric espoused on a daytime talk show. Go ahead and question the Senator's anecdotes for their historical validity and criticize her for coming on to a women's program with a poignant message tailored specifically to that audience. I am already aware that the pundits are having a field day with Clinton's anecdotes. None of that changes the fact that I am incredibly touched by her statements.

Do I recognize that expensive message-testing and focus groups likely contributed to the poignancy of Clinton's words? Yes. Do I recognize that sex alone is not a reason to vote for a candidate? Absolutely. My support for Hillary runs deeper than her XX chromosomes, to those practical, "every day" affiliations that are so fundamental to identifying with a candidate. But Hillary's sex does make a difference to me, at least in distinguishing between the major Democratic contenders, and that's not something I can hide. Cheesey or naive as it sounds, I am proud to be a woman supporting a woman for president.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Iran, Iran, I ran to post this blog

There's been quite a flury in the blogosphere today regarding the controversial Senate vote on Iran's Revolutionary Guard. One worried volunteer calling into Hillary's LA headquarters summarized the hysteria by frantically asking, "Is it true that Hillary Clinton voted to go to war with Iran today!?"

No, people. No. Senator Clinton did not vote to go to war with Iran. But her vote today was indeed a monumental move that I know will need to think about for a while before truly understanding the implications.

In a nutshell: Clinton voted in the majority today for the
Kyl-Lideberman Amndment, which designates Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization under Executive Order 13224. In effect, this:
...provides a means by which to disrupt the financial support network for terrorists and terrorist organizations by authorizing the U.S. government to designate and block the assets of foreign individuals and entities that commit, or pose a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism...
To block the assets of individuals and entities that provide support, services, or assistance to, or otherwise associate with, terrorists and terrorist organizations designated under the Order, as well as their subsidiaries, front organizations, agents, and associates. (Wiki)
In short, the Revolutionary Guard is now included on the
list of individuals and organizations indentified by Executive Order 13224. Of course, what makes this a flaming ball of controversy is the fact that Iran's Revolutionary Guard is now the first and only official armed unit of a sovereign state to be included on the list of banned terrorist groups. Quite obviously, this complicates diplomacy. (Understatement?)

Beyond that, I don't have much to say. I'm not informed enough on the issue and potential implications. But at the very least I thought this would be an important item to mention on the blog and hopefully get some input/debate/stream-of-consciousness-type discussion on the issue. Let me know what you think.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Frustrations of a Capable Woman

A certain Dr. Mack recently brought to my attention the fact that my current legacy in the blogosphere is a criticism of Dennis Kucinich’s eyebrows (albeit a poignant one). So after much soul-searching and grave, meditative reflection, I have decided that this is not the mark Oh Kermie is destined to make on the internet. Au contraire, mes amies (note the use of the feminine). I have far greater designs for this dear little blog of mine.

For today, that design shall include a much-overdue condemnation of the systematic use and abuse of gender-specific pro-nouns and nouns. Mind you – this is not a topic that is new to Oh Kermie (or my prolific friends The Colonic and On a Diner Napkin). What is more, the general point I am trying to make has been expressed time and again by feminists everywhere. But regardless, in the last few months I have become increasingly sensitive to the specific injuries that I am about to discuss – especially since the perpetrators of these crimes are often my would-be mentors.

Yeah, I’m talking to you: USC Political Science professors.

It is one thing for a professor to verbally acknowledge an anatomical difference between male and female students. For example: “Where is Jane? She did not show up for her paper conference today” vs. “Where is Dick? He did not show up for his paper conference today.” Similarly, the gendered use of pronouns and nouns is acceptable when describing the actions of political leaders, figures in history, or pertinent others who happened to identify as a woman or a man (i.e., “We should remember the women who championed the nineteenth amendment and be thankful for all they did for American daughters of the twentieth century and beyond”). I am not even offended (feel free to take issue here) by references to the “Founding Fathers” instead of the rather new alternative of the “Framers,” given that the names signed to the Declaration of Independence belonged to men. (The fact that it’s a timeless alliterative device also helps…As many of you know, I’m a sucker for alliteration.)

However, I am absolutely outraged to hear my supposedly distinguished and learned political science professors automatically revert to the masculine when speaking about unspecified or hypothetical political leaders. As a senior who is now completely immersed in upper division Poli-Sci courses, I would expect to find my esteemed educators more sensitive to the myriad stereotypes and implied social expectations embedded in the continual use of “he” when describing any situation in which an undefined political actor may operate. I am sick of hearing about how the ambiguous “he,” a member of California congress, would react to proposed amendments to “his” legislation from the Appropriations Committee… or how “he,” the as-yet-undetermined Democratic presidential nominee, will fare against Republican opponents in 2008.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, you should know that women make up a quarter of the seats in state legislatures across the nation, and the Democrat leading in national primary polls by about 20 points is Hillary Clinton – the proud owner of a uterus. Assuming that the professors leading my political science courses had to abandon the cover of their respective rocks to earn their PhD’s, I am profoundly upset that this discriminatory lexicon continues.

When half of the students (or more) sitting before you are ambitious women yearning for a quality education that will help propel them to careers in politics, law, and a host of other fields, you should be careful that your words do not reinforce limiting stereotypes of who may or may not participate in American law and government. While I am certainly not accusing any of my professors (male and female!) of utilizing such discriminatory language intentionally, I am disappointed that they routinely overlook verbal equality in the name of convenience or acquiescence to society’s default pronoun (“he”).

Furthermore, I am profoundly disturbed by a professor’s recent reference to the number of hours “girls” in his class presumably spend getting ready before coming to lecture (he pegged it at three – my, what use we Trojan women make of our time). It is truly unacceptable to belittle the exceptional women of USC by calling them as you would your ten year old “little girl.” If you must pick a term to counter references to the “guys” in your class, try to use the correct equivalent of “gals.” Don’t insult my age and maturity with a noun meant for school children.

Respect the capable minds of those you should teach and inspire; don’t disappoint us with limiting terminology and reveal your willingness to reinforce gender stereotypes.

(For more on this topic, read this 2005 piece from CampusProgress.org.)

Monday, July 30, 2007

Criterion for Kucinich

I finally finished watching last week's YouTube Democratic debate, and it brought me to a very important conclusion...

THE NEXT PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA MUST HAVE EYEBROWS.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Obama Gives New Meaning to "Substance Free"

Back in February I complained about Obama's dramatic, long-winded way with language and his fuzzy plans (if you can call them that) for the presidency. Now with five more months on the campaign trail and ample time to develop specific platforms on key issues, critics' claims that the Senator is "all style, no substance" ring true.

Obama's embarrassingly vague essay in the current issue of Foreign Affairs should have been a veritable ribbon-cutting on his agenda for American foreign policy. Instead, the Senator gave us very little by the way of concrete plans and opted once again to ride the waves of rhetoric, highlighting the issues we all know should be addressed with what might as well be an invisible pen. Amitai Etzioni at the Huffington Post is right on in his criticism of the lackluster piece:

Obama's favorite term, repeated ad nauseum, ad infinitum, is vision. What we need, the Senator writes, is "vision." We need a "visionary leadership" and "a new vision of leadership." This is, of course, all too true but also tells us very little as to which vision of foreign policy this new leader would ask us to follow. Obama, like most political candidates without a clear agenda, still manages to be quite clear as to what we are not to do. We should not retreat into Fortress America. We should not get out of Iraq in an "irresponsible" way. And we cannot stop fighting terrorism. So far so good. So far so little.

Now read Obama. He calls for the United States to provide "global leadership grounded in the understanding that the world shares a common security and a common humanity." These lines are about as vacuous as they come. Such far-from-inspirational prose ("grounded leadership," "share a common security") does not set Obama aside from most if not all other candidates. They lack a substantive vision that one can get one's hands around and draw on to guide a foreign policy.
Obama has charisma. Obama has style. Obama has a vision. But - like a person afflicted with cataracts vainly attemting to obtain a driver's license - that vision is grossly insufficient to inspire a Democratic nomination for the presidency.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Spielberg Endorses Clinton!

Steven Spielberg jumped on Hillary's official bandwagon today:
"I've taken the time to familiarize myself with the impressive field of Democratic candidates and am convinced that Hillary Clinton is the most qualified candidate to lead us from her first day in the White House."
Great words from a great man. This just made my day :)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I Am Woman, Hear Me Vote... For Hillary Clinton

Over the past few months I've engaged in ongoing debate with multiple individuals regarding Hillary's popularity among American women. I've consistently maintained that many women will be moved to vote for Hillary simply for the fact that she is a woman. Because the U.S. has never seen a truly viable female candidate for the presidency, I believe that many women are excited by Clinton's presence in the race and will favor her as a candidate because they identify with her gender identity. Of course, there will be women (I know a few of them) who completely reject Hillary for reasons other than her gender, and who disregard such a (trivial?) trait as gender in choosing to favor one candidate over another. But I contend that the gender issue is extremely relevant to the election, and that Hillary's femininity might even be a mobilizing factor for women who otherwise might not make it out to the polls.

Today an article in the Washington Post supports my theory, based on some fabulously fun polling data:

The consistent lead that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York has maintained over Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and others in the race for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination is due largely to one factor: her support from women.

In the most recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, Clinton led Obama by a 2 to 1 margin among female voters. Her 15-point lead in the poll is entirely attributable to that margin. Clinton drew support from 51 percent of the women surveyed, compared with 24 percent who said they supported Obama and 11 percent who said they backed former senator John Edwards of North Carolina.

Clinton is drawing especially strong support from lower-income, lesser-educated women -- voters her campaign strategists describe as "women with needs." Obama, by contrast, is faring better among highly educated women, who his campaign says are interested in elevating the political discourse.

Campaign advisers say they expect Obama to pick up support from all categories of voters once they get to know him better, and that could change the structure of the race. But for now, women appear to be playing an outsized role in shaping it and could tip the scale toward the winner.
Let's hope we can help tip the scales, ladies!

Friday, May 25, 2007

More Second Amendment Insanity

South Carolina law makers have got to be kidding, right?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Catch This Phrase, Trump

I'm sure everyone who reads this blog is just as indifferent as I am to the fact that NBC decided not to renew Donald Trump's once-popular-but-now-tired-out reality show, The Apprentice. But perhaps someone out there in the blogosphere shares my frustration with the media's overly generous assessment of the Trump's contributions to the English language. In MSNBC's article on the now-canceled show:
His announcement appeared to end any lingering doubt that “The Apprentice,” which turned the self-styled tycoon into a television star and popularized the catch phrase, “You’re fired,” would be banished from NBC’s airwaves next season.
Um, please excuse me, but "You're fired" is no catch phrase! Those two little words signaled doom for less-than-stellar employees everywhere long before The Apprentice hit the airwaves; and last time I checked, Trump's attempt to copyright the phrase failed miserably because of its already ubiquitous meaning and common usage. And just to support my critique, Dictionary.com defines a "catchphrase" as thus:
1. a phrase that attracts or is meant to attract attention.
2. a phrase, as a slogan, that comes to be widely and repeatedly used, often with little of the original meaning remaining.
I'm sure I don't need to enthusiastically explain why "You're fired" doesn't live up to either of these definitions, but please - if you have any questions - consult me and I'll do my best. And please, MSNBC, the last thing The Donald needs is another stroke of his - er - pat on his back. Don't encourage him further!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

A Poor Take On The Fire Drill

In a completely and utterly disgusting move by a group of Tennessee teachers (which I'd like to think could only happen in the Black Hills, but unfortunately believe this may become a trend), 69 terrified sixth graders were subjects of a staged gunman attack during a week-long educational class trip to a national park. According to the MSNBC article, teachers and the school's assistant principal decided to fake an attack after discussing amongst staff how they would react in a real situation. The students were not warned that there would be a "drill" of this nature, and believed whole heartedly that the teacher disguised in a hooded-sweatshirt with a fake gun was on a rampage out to kill them.

Understandably, parents of the children exposed to the simulated assault are outraged. The responsible administration and teachers offered absolutely no justification for the "drill," nor did they indicate that the students were supposed to take any particular lesson or message from the simulation (20 of whom reportedly sobbed in the dark, begging for their lives whilst hiding under tables and chairs during the attack).

I am sickened to think that our nation has reached such a boiling point in the hysteria of gun-culture that shooting-rampage drills are even a remote possibility on the horizon. We should not be preparing school children for gun attacks รก la fire & earthquake drills!!! Fires and earthquakes are natural disasters which occur unpredictably by the forces of nature, and thus we should reasonably prepare students to respond appropriately to such phenomena. SHOOTING ATTACKS, on the other hand, are the very specific actions of psychotic individuals armed with GUNS, which are often legally-obtained by violence perpetrators and which are MOST CERTAINLY not natural extensions of the human body creating natural disastrous phenomena. On the contrary, guns are decisively unnatural tools of violence - available only in very recent human history - and integrated
haphazardly into a nation where guns morphed from tools for the protection of cattle on homesteads to concealed semiautomatic weapons for use in gang, school, and domestic violence in less than a century. It seems that sanctioning shooting attack drills in schools signals our society's acceptance of, or acquiescence to, its own pitiful ability to control firearms possession.

I've said it once and I'll say it again: Guns do not belong in American society. Get rid of the god damn Second Amendment.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Bye, Bye Blair

Prime Minister Tony Blair announced his long-anticipated resignation today, prompted in part by free-falling public approval ratings due to his partnership with President Bush in Iraq. But although there are cheers for change in Britain, I am sad to see a largely successful world leader step down. As Blair reminds us in today's speech, he has made a remarkable difference for the UK domestically (in terms of education, health, and gay rights) and has helped made Britain's economy stronger than ever (a fact I know ALLLLLL too well from living abroad there for the Fall semester... screw that damned exchange rate!!). So Blair, I kiss you goodbye, wish you the best of luck, and I do indeed hope that speculation about an active Clinton-esque foundation in your name is soon to come!

See the resignation announcement here:


Monday, April 30, 2007

Shattering the Glass or Wiping it Down? The History of Public Opinion Research on Female Presidential Candidates & Implications for Clinton's Campaign

At the height of her short-lived bid for the American presidency in 1988, Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder famously told the press: “When people ask me why I am running as a woman, I always answer, ‘What choice do I have?’” Although her ironic response successfully called attention to the inherent gender-bias associated with such a question, Schroeder was ultimately unable to shake public skepticism at the notion of a female front-runner in the Democratic primary. When the excited buzz surrounding her candidacy failed to produce significant funds to support a competitive campaign, Schroeder’s quest for a seat in the Oval Office ended abruptly with a tearful press conference that was endlessly mocked by critics of the day (Tickner, 1992). Twenty years later, a new woman has emerged from the political landscape with an eye on capturing the highest office in the land. But unlike Schroeder, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is generating both the buzz and the bucks needed to mount a bold campaign for the presidency. As analysts continue to place Clinton’s campaign finances at the top of the list for the 2008 frontrunners, stereotypes of female domesticity, submission, and apathy seem dusty vestiges of great grand-pappy’s political dogma. Yet despite the unprecedented optimism with which Clinton-enthusiasts regard her gendered presidential campaign, a vast and complex body of public opinion research prompts continued questions about gender discrimination in the minds of voters and the true elect-ability of a presidential hopeful such as Hillary Clinton. An analysis of the evolution of gender bias in public opinion studies and the recent profusion of polling data for Clinton and her fellow presidential hopefuls will reveal that Americans finally seem primed to elect a woman president – as long as they find that her positions on national and foreign policy are superior to her opponents’.

Social scientists have long been fascinated with American attitudes toward female politicians, with inquiry into the public’s willingness to vote for a woman president fundamental in their historic investigations. Although significant numbers of female representatives in senatorial and gubernatorial offices were a dream until the early 1990s, questions probing the willingness of citizens to elect a woman president first appeared in national opinion surveys as early as 1937 (Carpini & Fuchs, 1993). In a survey that would become the first in a long series of investigations into national gender biases, the Gallup Organization asked respondents whether they would “vote for a woman for president if she were qualified in every other respect” (1937). Indeed, the blatantly discriminatory language of this question reflected the cynical public sentiment at the time, with 64% of respondents saying they would not vote for a woman. In hindsight public opinion scholars have been deeply critical of the leading language of this first question, noting that “the use of the word ‘other’ clearly suggests to the respondent that simply being a woman makes one unqualified for the job” (Falk & Kenski, 2006, p. 414). Future researchers were more careful in framing questions about women candidates, and the word “other” was dropped from survey lexicon completely in 1939 (Falk & Kenski, 2006).

Yet despite long running researcher-recognition of problems in framing questions about women presidential candidates, modern opinion surveys persist in using loaded language to ask respondents if they would vote for a female president. Recent surveys from the most respected polling agencies in the United States continue to ask questions such as: “If your party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be a woman, would you vote for that person?” or “If your party nominated a woman for president, would you vote for her if she were qualified for the job?” (USA Today & Gallup Poll, 2007; Newsweek & Princeton Survey Research Associates, 2006). Although such wording is by and large an improvement on the 1937 prototype, the underlying assumption in each of these examples is that being a woman is an inherent disadvantage to any individual seeking office, “clearly prim[ing] questions about a woman’s qualifications” (Falk & Kenski, 2006, p. 414). Of course, our country has never had a female president or an official female nominee for the office, so pollsters may make a case for the necessity of such wording; but ultimately this persistence of biased language seems indicative of enduring social norms regarding women leaders.

This is not to say, however, that public sentiment has lain stagnate on the issue of willingness to vote for a woman president. In her acclaimed analysis of Americans’ changing responses to the question, Myra Ferree found that public opinion moved significantly in favor of a woman president between 1958 and 1972, with the most noticeable change occurring between 1969 and 1972 (Feree, 1974, p. 392):

Change over time in percentage of respondents willing to vote for a female presidential candidate

Year of Survey

Percent “Yes”

Percent “No”

1958

55%

39%

1959

58

38

1963

56

40

1967

57

38

1969

55

38

1972

70

25

In that final period, the number of respondents willing to vote for a woman candidate for president jumped 15% (from a slim majority of 55% to almost two-thirds of the sample population), and the number of those unreceptive to a female president declined at a comparable rate. As may be logically inferred, “the increase in positive attitudes toward a woman for president coincides with the impact of the feminist movement… beginning in the 1970s” (Mandel, 2006, p.5). Since the late 1990s (and the many monumental advances women have made into the public sphere), positive response rates to the woman-candidate question have remained steady at above 90% of most samples.

Indeed, these numbers paint a promising picture for a candidate like Hillary Clinton – with deep running campaign funds and a prominent name among the American people to boot – but not all public opinion research paints U.S. voters as so accepting of the prospect of a woman’s leadership. A significant number of social scientists believe that the social desirability effect (whereby individuals feel the need to conform to perceived expectations of interviewers) may be accountable for the large percentage of survey respondents who say they are willing to vote for a female presidential candidate (Falk & Kenski, 2006; Streb et al., 2006). Although this effect is extremely difficult to examine or manipulate in a research setting, those who believe that social desirability has an impact on modern survey respondents wary of being labeled as “sexist” would agree that the effect may explain significantly lower positive responses to survey questions regarding the nation’s overall readiness for a woman president. Carole Kennedy writes: “While most Americans report that they personally would be willing to vote for a woman president, other polls show that a majority of Americans still believe that the country is not ready to elect a woman president” (Kennedy, 2001). Kennedy’s findings reflect those in a February 2007 poll conducted by the Gallup Organization, in which only 60% of respondents felt that America is actually ready for a woman president (CNN & Opinion Research Corporation, 2006). Such a narrow majority of individuals who believe the country is ready to elect a woman to the Oval Office suggests the existence of very real reservations among American voters about the capability of a woman to serve as president.

But if this pessimistic view of America’s willingness to elect a woman president is truly the case, then why has Hillary Clinton come out with such strong numbers in poll after poll measuring voter attitudes toward the 2008 presidential election? Since the field of both Democratic and Republican 2008 presidential hopefuls has been solidly defined in recent months, Senator Clinton has maintained a strong presence in polls and is often ranked by respondents as the top Democratic candidate for president. Recent studies of Democrat-leaning adults conducted by ABC News and the Washington Post consistently place Clinton as the number one contender in the Democratic primary, with a 17% lead over her nearest opponent (Barack Obama) as of mid-April (2007). And while it is certainly true that a fair amount of variation in these results exists (one April poll gives Clinton a mere 5% lead over Obama) the salient piece of information here is that a woman is actually topping the presidential polls against real, live male opponents (NBC News & Wall Street Journal, 2007). Hillary’s continued success (some might say domination) in these polls suggest that speculation about the social desirability effect in studies about women’s general elect-ability are irrelevant to Senator Clinton’s campaign. While one may argue that an anti-sexist social desirability effect might influence individuals’ answers about their theoretical willingness to vote for a woman, it is quite a stretch to say that respondents would let this effect influence their self-identified preferences for actual candidates in the 2008 primaries.

Furthermore, Clinton’s leadership among other Democratic nomination candidates is consistent in most of the measured sub-group populations in national polls. Where Hillary falters (with Democratic-leaning: men aged 18 to 49, college graduates, 18 to 29 year olds, Midwesterners, and $100,000+ income earners; who prefer Obama), she maintains a significant share of preference votes with arguably more numerous and hence influential voting populations (Pew Research, 2007). In light of her truly stellar showing in current polls, it seems that Clinton’s gender will be much less of an issue (if an issue, at all) than her specific positions on national and foreign policy. With polling numbers that are virtually indistinguishable from all-male presidential races in the past, Hillary’s femininity seems immaterial to her viability as a leader among potential voters who continue to positively rank her alongside male candidates. As Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter cleverly explains, Clinton’s “hair and hemline wont be issues [for 2008 voters]; her muscular national-security approach and her famous husband will” (2006). This dynamic is easily observed in the general election trial heats where variations in Clinton’s performance against prominent Republican candidates such as Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, and Mitt Romney may be logically explained by partisan preference and policy standpoints. Indeed, her 1% margin of loss to Giuliani, 1% victory over McCain, and 15% winning margin over Romney indicate that Hillary has as good a chance as any historic Democratic presidential hopeful in winning the race for the Oval Office, provided she gets the nomination (Princeton Survey Research and Newsweek, 2007).

So although the age-old question of whether Americans would vote for a female presidential candidate has elicited confusing and contradictory responses from voters over time, recent studies of the 2008 presidential hopefuls suggest that the United States is indeed ready to elect a woman president – given that her stances on major issues are in line with the ideologies of a majority of voters. In an age where Hillary Clinton is the current favored Democratic presidential nominee, public opinion research into American’s willingness to vote for a woman for president has evolved from the theoretical to the specific and influential. As the first-ever female presidential candidate to possess substantial financial resources, national visibility, and respected political credentials all at once, Hillary Clinton has already demonstrated that she is an attractive candidate to many likely 2008 election voters. Now, Clinton must merely prove to voters that her policy positions and leadership experience are superior to her opponents – a task that is similarly required of any other presidential candidate, regardless of gender.

Fun New Ideology Rankings

Straight from Pew Research (use link to view enlarged version of scale):
Republican and Democratic voters express very different views of the ideologies of the leading Democratic candidates. Asked to rate each candidate's ideology on a scale from one to six, where one represents a very conservative position and six very liberal, Hillary Clinton gets an overall score of 4.4. But Republican voters, on average, rate Clinton as 5.0, compared with Democratic voters who score Clinton as a 4.2. Fully 58% of Republican voters give Sen. Clinton the most liberal score possible - a six on the six-point scale - compared with just 22% of Democratic voters.


Question mark: Why is an ideology scale of the primary field including data on Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and "Dubya"? And is anyone else (i.e., Dr. Mack) surprised that the mean ideology self ranking for Democrats is exactly the same as the mean ideology ranking for John Edwards? Does this mean anything for the Edwards campaign and '08 primaries?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

I'd Watch "Celebrity Fit Club" if Shrek Were On It


Ever since the Shrek franchise of films hit the big screen in 2001 I’ve been a big fan of the giant green ogre and his pals. The narratives in both the first and second Shrek films have held undeniably positive messages for both youth and adults – and I’m sure that if I were fifteen years younger the series would not be subject to my mother’s Princess Ban. But even in my adoration and enjoyment of DreamWorks’ most popular character, I am deeply disturbed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ decision to appoint him the official spokesperson for the new childhood obesity prevention campaign.

Why, you ask? How could anyone want to oust America’s favorite swamp beast from a campaign aimed at the impressionable minds who adore him so? I’ll give you two great reasons:

1) With current endorsement deals with McDonalds, Sierra Mist, Cheez-Its, Snickers, M&M’s, Fruit Loops, Frosted Flakes, and Keebler cookies, Shrek is hardly a poster-child (or poster-ogre) for healthy dietary choices. As one Harvard Medical School faculty member puts it, “Surely DHHS can find a better spokesperson for healthy living than a character who is [simultaneously!!!!] a walking advertisement for McDonald’s, sugary cereals, cookies, and candy.” It doesn’t take a brilliant critical mind to determine that Shrek’s very public relationships with some of the unhealthiest brands around are ill-matched with the government’s aim of promoting healthy lifestyles to America’s increasingly plump generation of children.

2) Shrek is overweight. And I don’t mean some-unsightly-love-handles- and-a-badonk-a-donk-butt-but-still-in-the-healthy-body-mass-index- range overweight… The creature is decisively large, and his BMI would undoubtedly be sky high if we could indeed calculate such figures for digitally animated beings. I will be the first to reject the DHSS’s official statement that Shrek is being used to promote exercise (not foods), and that “he doesn’t have a perfect physique… We hope children will understand that being physically fit doesn’t require being a great athlete.” Um, excuse me, but last time I checked, exercising and eating right go hand in hand. And while we should certainly steer clear of the often emaciated media images of models/celebrities that some argue are a major catalyst for eating disorders, it is ludicrous to say that Shrek’s blubber is merely the mark of a “non-athlete” with an otherwise healthy lifestyle. If you ask me, this swamp-man needs to cut back on the “Swamp Rat au Jus, Big Green Slugs, and anything with a face, feet, and hands.” (Yeah, that was from the official website.)

The bottom line – Shrek is truly loveable guy, and the television-campaign-in-question is really quite cute. But the ogre’s dirty marketing deals and his distinctly unhealthy lifestyle choices (and physical manifestations) send the wrong message to youth. Instead, let’s get Shrek on Celebrity Fit Club, or have him start a cooking show with “Healthy Swamp Treats of the Week.” At least then we wouldn’t have to deal with this ideological struggle… And I wouldn’t have to rant about my favorite green man!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Intellectual "Ugh"

I don't mean to seem like an intellectual elitist here, but I am disturbed at how this article seems to celebrate (or at least excuse) those individuals who are born with below-average IQs. And it's reminiscent of that season of The Apprentice, where they put the college grads up against those who never went after degrees. I don't know, it just bugs me.

Pick Up Your Phone! Now!

...In support of the Freedom of Choice Act. Here is the alert I received from the Feminist Majority Foundation:

NATIONAL CALL IN DAY

CALL YOUR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS
ON APRIL 25

(202) 224-3121

FOCA House Bill Number:
H.R. 1964

FOCA Senate Bill Number:
S. 1173

On April 18, the Supreme Court turned back the clock on women's health. Every American who values freedom and privacy should be troubled by the Court's decision to uphold the Federal Abortion Ban, an abortion ban with no protection for a woman's health.

You can fight back. The Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) would guarantee reproductive freedom for future generations of American women. With the Court's decision, we need the protection of FOCA now more than ever before.

Join us for the national call-in day on April 25, the third anniversary of the historic March for Women's Lives. We will flood the phone lines of the U.S. House and Senate.

Don't let this attack on women's freedom and privacy go unanswered. Urge your members of Congress to co-sponsor the Freedom of Choice Act.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Not My Favorite Colbert

I don’t pretend to fully understand why there are such complexities to urban musical slang versus hateful, bigoted slurs, or why it is appropriate for a person to sing “nigga” in a rap song while the same word is reprehensible in common conversation. I also don’t pretend that the lines of reasoning people use to defend such distinctions aren’t often circular or inherently flawed in their construction. (Can such words really be empowering and familial in one context while xenophobic and vile in another?)

I can, however, say with cautious certainty that a tangible distinction between the contexts of such controversial language indeed exists, and it’s a futile exercise to universally condemn those individuals who employ such loaded language in the friendlier sense. While I may be confused at why Timbaland wishes to croon “All the hoes love a nigga, they be backing it up,” I cannot reasonably respond to his lyrics with the same anger I direct at the distasteful comments of Don Imus (official understatement of the year on Oh Kermie). Which is why I am so irritated with Colbert I. King’s rant on Senator Clinton’s recent $800,000 fundraiser hosted at Timbaland’s Florida home, featured this weekend in the Washington Post:

“This much I do know: If Hillary Clinton wasn't playing a hypocrite in the Don Imus episode and is, in fact, a leader who matches her lofty ideals with stand-up behavior, she should return the $800,000 Timbaland raised for her at his swank affair.”

Can I get a what? I’m not going to try to avoid King’s “duh” finger-pointing at the society’s obvious double standard for racially and sexually loaded language. Good job, man, you found it, let me find a cookie for your sleuthing! But without any suggestions for rhetorical reform or an explanation as to why this language is tolerated in the largely ethnic hip-hop community, his criticisms are disingenuous and cheapen the significance of this unique union for political gain.

Clinton’s successful appearance in the hip-hop community should be celebrated for engaging a demographic that doesn’t historically storm the polls with all its potential might, and should be seen as a start of an electorate-candidate conversation (Hillary’s good at those) with big possibilities for 2008. And while King can argue that this target demographic was excluded from the $1,000-per-plate benefit last month, there is no denying that the stamp of a prominent rap mogul on partisan politics might have great implications for the mobilization of hip-hop generation voters.

My advice to King? If you really want the authority to launch a polemic against a popular candidate for the presidency (whose “lofty ideals” are proving a hit with key demographics), figure out why such a significant portion of society indulges the language you happily condemn. Until we can take this controversial lexicon out of our mainstream social dialogue, candidates cannot hope to bridge the incredible gap between their elite political camps and Timbaland-bumping citizens without waltzing into at least a bit of moral mud. And let’s be honest – there’s quite a bit of murky area out there for sludging through.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Way to go, Washington!

A small victory for the LGBT community in Washington state: The LA Times reports that Governor Chris Gregoire signed a law recognizing domestic partnerships between gay and lesian couples. Under the legislation, registered same-sex couples have "hospital visitation rights, the ability to authorize autopsies and organ donations, and inheritance rights when there is no will."

Now if only the state recognized ALL legal partnerships this way and dropped the ideologically and religiously loaded word "marriage" from the books... Baby steps, baby steps...

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Commending the Hokies

I think one of the reasons the Virginia Tech Massacre is so terrifying is that it happened on a well-known and respected university campus, one of the last places Americans typically fear for their lives. After reading article after article about the shootings on Monday evening, I found myself looking around from my cubicle in the library and wondering how I would react if a madman with a gun barged in with an intent to kill.

It is so sad and horrifying to think that we can't even feel safe at an institution of higher learning, where diverse opinions and peoples are supposed to be respected and nurtured. In the past few days, my thoughts have of course been with the victims and their families, but I've also wondered how the university plans to continue with the semester. With final exams and commencement rapidly approaching, the work of an entire semester (or rather, an entire college career) seems irreversibly damaged to such a disgusting extreme... I don't know how my school would even think of reacting to such an event.

Which is why I was so incredibly impressed with Virginia Tech's response to the tragedy, in terms of the completion of the semester and evaluating grades in the face of such a crisis. The university's website indicates:

Students will have the option of requesting, on a course by course basis, that the semester grade be based on the faculty evaluation of:

- Materials which have already been submitted for grade prior to April 16, or

- The already submitted material plus any other assigned material which the student wishes to submit for grade, or

- The material that would have been submitted for grade upon regular completion of the course.

Implementation of this procedure will be accomplished in a manner consistent with university academic policy. Existing policies related to other academic issues remain in effect. Flexibility and attention to the needs of the students is a high priority. The deans fully support the implementation and will be supported by the Office of the Provost.

In support of their emotional well-being, it is recommended that students continue to participate in class activities as part of the Virginia Tech community. We encourage students to continue to take advantage of all learning opportunities. Students will be permitted to defer a decision on which option to exercise until the last day of classes. The Course Withdrawal Policy is also extended until the last day of classes. The options for completing course work allow for students to remove themselves from the campus for all or part of the remainder of the semester without penalty to their course completion, or academic eligibility.

The university has decided that those students whose lives were taken will be awarded posthumously the academic degree for which they were enrolled effective Spring 2007. These degrees will be awarded during the college, graduate school, or departmental commencement exercises, where such degrees are usually awarded.

I absolutely commend the administrators at Virginia Tech for responding in such a sensitive, flexible manner to a truly incomprehensible and seemingly impossible challenge. I am also incredibly touched that the university decided to award degrees to the students whose lives were taken on Monday. In the face of disaster, I think Virginia Tech is showing true excellence and poise.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Ten Commandments of the Ethical Atheist

While I certainly embrace being called an "atheist" (for, in fact, that is precisely what I am), I am often disgruntled with the condescending attitude my more spirited non-secular peers adopt in discussions about morality. "Where do you think your morals come from?" "If we were all atheists there would only be chaos." "Religion provides humanity with a necessary moral code." Although I do not believe that humans have an innate and absolute moral code from which they can determine what is right and wrong in virtually any complex ethical dilemma, I do believe that all rational humans (read: those without mental illnesses) are equipped with a definitive sense of morality on the major issues.

The order of "Thou shalt not kill" from the Ten Commandments of the Judeo-Christian faiths was not revolutionary at its canonization; Murderous crimes were punished with vigor by civilizations predating Moses, and the evolution of human societies and social norms suggest that moral codes dealing with such fundamental issues of order in free societies are here to stay - regardless of whether or not the majority continues to cling to religious codes. Yet despite these self-evident truths about humanity, atheists are often branded as amoral and unconditionally self-interested by the religious right (and my really annoying, evangelical neighbor from spring 2006). For this reason, I like to frame my atheism in the context of secular humanism.

Today, I came across a nice set of "Commandments" for ethical non-believers, straight from the
Ethical Atheist Foundation. Click on each commandment to find a more detailed explanation of each moral tenet. And so, let it be known:

1. Thou shalt not believe all thou art told.

2. Thou shalt seek knowledge and truth constantly.

3. Thou shalt educate thy fellow man in the Laws of Science.

4. Thou shalt NOT forget the atrocities committed in the name of god.

5. Thou shalt leave valuable contributions for future generations.

6. Thou shalt live in peace with thy fellow man.

7. Thou shalt live this one life thou hast to its fullest.

8. Thou shalt follow a Personal Code of Ethics.

9. Thou shalt maintain a strict separation between Church and State.

10. Thou shalt support those who follow these commandments.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A Lesson from the Tragedy at Virginia Tech

Government-issued photo ID. (X). Ninety-day residency in desired state of purchase. (X). Basic criminal background check. (X).

And just like that, 32 innocent lives are lost.

Armed with two handguns that were legally and easily purchased from licensed vendors, 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui stormed his alma mater in Blacksburg, Virginia and brutally attacked students and professors in the deadliest shooting in U.S. history. Today and for countless days to come we must mourn the deaths of those who periled at the hands of such a merciless killer. Yet we must also live with the pungent scent of shame that continues to linger over our nation’s outrageous “right to bear arms.”

Yesterday’s horrific and tragic massacre at Virginia Tech is yet another agonizing reminder that Second Amendment should have no place in our twenty-first century society.

When the Framers embarked on their noble quest to endow the American people with a set of inalienable rights, they had no intention of guaranteeing to civilians the unrestricted or even consciously regulated right to own handguns, rifles, or semiautomatic weapons (all of which have been used with sickening frequency to attack innocents around the country in recent years).

At the time the Constitution was written, the right to bear arms was a purely practical consideration to ensure the nascent government would have a ready and able militia if the mighty Brits ever tried to reclaim their rogue colonies. The wording of the NRA’s favorite sentence of all time is crystal clear: “A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.”

Virtually no part of the Constitution explicitly indicates or even subtly implies that any other reason for bearing arms is a sound interpretation of the Second Amendment. Not self-defense. Not game hunting for leisure. Not to “even the playing field” with “bad guys” who “don’t play by the rules.” There is absolutely no reason that anyone outside of the military or law enforcement – those modern day militia-men who keep the free State secure – should be able to own a firearm.

In the aftermath of such a devastating utilization of legally-obtained and registered guns (purchased by a man who seemed “cordial” and “clean-cut” to the responsible store clerk), it is mind-numbing to listen to otherwise-rational Americans cite our nation’s so-called anger problems as the force behind gun violence. Even some parents of Columbine shooting victims are blaming school shootings on an angry American society that tolerates violence.

We do not need to wake Sigmund Freud from his grave to analyze the psychological complexities of Americans and determine why so many people resort to gun violence. People resort to gun violence because they have access to guns.

There is no doubt that the number of American deaths by firearms would be greatly reduced if we outlawed the legal sale of guns in our country. If people do not have sophisticated, efficient, mechanical means to murder, they resort to more primitive and ineffective methods when callously tempted to harm others. And such methods are simply not as successful as guns at bringing innocent victims to death. Most of the developed, democratized world acknowledges the crucial and obvious link between guns and violence, and they enjoy drastically lower homicide rates (specifically, gun deaths) per year because of their much stricter policies on firearms.

Of course, we can never totally prevent renegade individuals from breaking gun control laws and obtaining firearms illegally. Not even the United Kingdom (which outlaws guns completely) was able to prevent a total of 46 gun-homicides last year, compared to America’s 10,105 firearm murders in 2005.

But if we can pass legislation that outlaws the sale of guns and establishes some systematic plan to recall those already in American homes, we can show true respect to the victims at Virginia Tech by reducing the risk of history repeating itself, again. The sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, students, and teachers who were savagely slaughtered by legally-obtained firearms this week should serve as somber reminders that America’s permissive stance on guns is poisonous. Only serious reevaluation of the Second Amendment and new steps to outlaw guns in our country are appropriate cures for America’s perverted gun culture (of which I guarantee the Framers would not approve).

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Way of the Gigolo

In what seems to be a never-ending quest for information on McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky and Van Orden v. Perry, I stumbled upon a gem of a quote on none other than THE DASH - that fun little guy I know and love so well!

“The dash, the gigolo of the punctuation world, has its uses and its dangers. It intrigues the writer with its drama and its convenient ambiguity. Like a gigolo, however, its effectiveness is determined by the user's savoir faire and restraint. If you overuse the dash in legal writing, you run the risk of looking desperate.”

...and yes, I promise that there is more to come from El Kermie (Oh, I mean Oh Kermie) like, yesterday.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Turtle Power!

Everybody please drop everything and get excited... there's a new TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES movie coming out! Cowabungaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Shattering the Glass or Wiping it Down?: Issues in Public Opinion Research on Female Presidential Candidates in the Age of Hillary Clinton

At the height of her short-lived bid for the American presidency in 1988, Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder famously told the press: “When people ask me why I am running as a woman, I always answer, ‘What choice do I have?’” Although her ironic response successfully called attention to the inherent gender-bias associated with such a question, Schroeder was ultimately unable to shake public skepticism at the notion of a female front-runner in the Democratic primary. When the excited buzz surrounding her candidacy failed to produce significant funds to support a competitive campaign, Schroeder’s quest for a seat in the Oval Office ended abruptly with a tearful press conference that was endlessly mocked by critics of the day (Tickner, 1992). Twenty years later, a new woman has emerged from the political landscape with an eye on capturing the highest office in the land. But unlike Schroeder, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is generating both the buzz and the bucks needed to mount a bold campaign for the presidency. As analysts continue to place Clinton’s campaign finances at the top of the list for the 2008 frontrunners, stereotypes of female domesticity, submission, and apathy seem dusty vestiges of great grand-pappy’s political dogma. Yet despite the unprecedented optimism with which Clinton-enthusiasts regard her gendered presidential campaign, a vast and complex body of public opinion research suggests that Hillary’s attempted return to the White House may not be as free from the throes of gender discrimination as the civic-minded, ambitious women of our generation would happily believe. An analysis of the evolution of gender bias in public opinion studies and the attribution of leadership qualities to female political candidates will show that the American public’s readiness to elect a female president remains an elusive question – with Hillary Clinton’s upcoming run in the Democratic primary the nearest thing to an answer on the horizon.


Social scientists have long been fascinated with American attitudes toward female politicians, with inquiry into the public’s willingness to vote for a woman president fundamental in their historic investigations.
Although significant numbers of female representatives in senatorial and gubernatorial offices were a dream until the early 1990s, questions probing the willingness of citizens to elect a woman president first appeared in national opinion surveys as early as 1937 (Carpini & Fuchs, 1993). In a survey that would become the first in a long series of investigations into national gender biases, the Gallup Organization asked respondents whether they would “vote for a woman for president if she were qualified in every other respect” (1937). Indeed, the blatantly discriminatory language of this question reflected the cynical public sentiment at the time, with 64% of respondents saying they would not vote for a woman. In hindsight public opinion scholars have been deeply critical of the leading language of this first question, noting that “the use of the word ‘other’ clearly suggests to the respondent that simply being a woman makes one unqualified for the job” (Falk & Kenski, 2006, p. 414). Future researchers were more careful in framing questions about women candidates, and the word “other” was dropped from survey lexicon completely in 1939 (Falk & Kenski, 2006).


Yet despite long running researcher-recognition of problems in framing questions about women presidential candidates, modern opinion surveys persist in using loaded language to ask respondents if they would vote for a female president.
Recent surveys from the most respected polling agencies in the United States continue to ask questions such as: “If your party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be a woman, would you vote for that person?” or “If your party nominated a woman for president, would you vote for her if she were qualified for the job?” (USA Today & Gallup Poll, 2007; Newsweek & Princeton Survey Research Associates, 2006). Although such wording is by and large an improvement on the 1937 prototype, the underlying assumption in each of these examples is that being a woman is an inherent disadvantage to any individual seeking office, “clearly prim[ing] questions about a woman’s qualifications” (Falk & Kenski, 2006, p. 414). Of course, our country has never had a female president or an official female nominee for the office, so pollsters may make a case for the necessity of such wording; but ultimately this persistence of biased language seems indicative of enduring social norms regarding women leaders.


This is not to say, however, that public sentiment has lain stagnate on the issue of willingness to vote for a woman president.
In her acclaimed analysis of Americans’ changing responses to the question, Myra Ferree found that public opinion moved significantly in favor of a woman president between 1958 and 1972, with the most noticeable change occurring between 1969 and 1972 (Feree, 1974, p. 392):

Change over time in percentage of respondents willing to vote for a female presidential candidate

Year of Survey

Percent “Yes”

Percent “No”

1958

55%

39%

1959

58

38

1963

56

40

1967

57

38

1969

55

38

1972

70

25


In that final period, the number of respondents willing to vote for a woman candidate for president jumped 15% (from a slim majority of 55% to almost two-thirds of the sample population), and the number of those unreceptive to a female president declined at a comparable rate. As may be logically inferred, “the increase in positive attitudes toward a woman for president coincides with the impact of the feminist movement… beginning in the 1970s” (Mandel, 2006, p.5). Since the late 1990s (and the many monumental advances women have made into the public sphere), positive response rates to the woman-candidate question have remained steady at above 90% of most samples.

Indeed, these numbers paint a promising picture for a candidate like Clinton – with deep running campaign funds and a prominent name among the American people to boot – but not all public opinion research paints U.S. voters as so accepting of the prospect of a woman’s leadership. A significant number of social scientists believe that the social desirability effect (whereby individuals feel the need to conform to perceived expectations of interviewers) may be accountable for the large percentage of survey respondents who say they are willing to vote for a female presidential candidate (Falk & Kenski, 2006; Streb et al., 2006). Although this effect is extremely difficult to examine or manipulate in a research setting, those who believe that social desirability has an impact on modern survey respondents wary of being labeled as “sexist” would agree that the effect may explain significantly lower positive responses to survey questions regarding the nation’s overall readiness for a woman president. Carole Kennedy writes: “While most Americans report that they personally would be willing to vote for a woman president, other polls show that a majority of Americans still believe that the country is not ready to elect a woman president” (Kennedy, 2001). Kennedy’s findings reflect those in a February 2007 poll conducted by the Gallup Organization, in which only 60% of respondents felt that America is actually ready for a woman president (CNN & Opinion Research Corporation, 2006). Such a narrow majority of individuals who believe the country is ready to elect a woman to the Oval Office suggests the existence of very real reservations among American voters about the capability of a woman to serve as president.

Researchers have attempted to determine how voters evaluate this presidential capability by examining respondents’ attribution of leadership traits to both male and female candidates; yet perhaps unsurprisingly, the studies have produced unclear results for interpreting the elective power of a woman like Hillary Clinton in today’s political climate. In a 1993 experiment, Alexander and Andersen found that:

…gender role beliefs may predispose people to a more or less favorable view of women politicians, and in particular that those who profess an egalitarian ideology see female candidates in a positive light both in traditional “female” terms and in their possession of more “masculine” attributes (Alexander & Andersen, 1993, p. 541).


But while such a finding is promising for female presidential aspirants counting on votes from so-called egalitarian ideologues, the option of a less favorable view of women politicians remains, with the unfavorable set of biases presumably originating from voters in the conservative heartland of America that has often proved important to presidential hopefuls.


Ultimately, the things that influence individuals to attribute leadership characteristics to political candidates – regardless of gender – are dependent upon multiple factors outside of mere gender stereotypes.
Kenski and Falk believe that political partisanship is the most important indicator of voter preference for a female or male presidential candidate, when information regarding their respective policy backgrounds and party identification is readily available (Kenski & Falk, 2006). Yet these scientists also find that “gender, education, and ideology [of respondents] are strong predictors of presidential gender preference,” though it remains unclear how each of these traits may influence an individual’s liking of female (or male) politicians (Kenski & Falk, 2004, p. 58). In short, the effect of voter gender, party identification, ideology, and other demographic characteristics on voter preference for female (or male) political candidates is unknown.


So although we can be confident that the American public is more receptive to a female president now than in 1937, the critical mass of public opinion research on political gender biases has left much to be desired in terms of definitive answers regarding the nation’s true readiness to elect a woman president.
But in the absence of any serious female candidates in the United States’ long history of presidential elections, this shortage of conclusive data is not entirely unexpected. Indeed, steadily increasing numbers of female senatorial and gubernatorial representatives indicate that the public is both ready and willing to elect women leaders (in spite of that cursed uterus early Gallup Pollsters once considered damning for a politician). The question remains, however, whether these “uterus votes” can be extended to the Oval Office, the virtual no-woman’s land of presidential power and influence. As the first-ever female candidate to possess substantial financial resources, national visibility, and respected political credentials all at once, Hillary Clinton will doubtless be a crucial figure in public opinion research for her upcoming leading role in the 2008 presidential elections – when we will finally have a chance to determine if America is willing to vote for a woman president.