'Clinton's gender not an issue'

Study: Most Israelis, too, don't believe men are more successful political leaders than women.

us special 2 224 (photo credit: )
us special 2 224
(photo credit: )
The current presidential primary race in the US raises the question of support for female candidates for high public office. In the Democratic Party primaries so far, most females have cast their votes for Hillary Clinton. In 13 out of the 15 key states holding elections on Super Tuesday (February 5th), the percentage of women voting for Clinton was higher than the percentage of men voting for her. These percentages were equal in one of the other two key races; in the other, the male vote for Clinton outweighed the female vote by only one percent. The gender gap in voting was evident regardless of who received the majority of votes in these states - Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. The question is: Are more women voting for Clinton because she's a woman? And, on the flip side: Are fewer men voting for Clinton because she's a woman? Research (primarily in the US) indicates that when women compete in elections, their rate of success is equal to that of male candidates. In other words, there is no anti-female trend in voting. Voting preferences are determined not by a candidate's gender, but, first and foremost, on the basis of party affiliation, previous terms in office, and the issues of the day. Nevertheless, women demonstrate slightly more support for female candidates. Other research indicated that women voting in Congressional elections will sometimes cross party lines to cast their votes for a female candidate. The fact that most female candidates are Democrats is an electoral advantage for that party. And in Israel, is the public convinced that women can be as successful as men in leadership positions? According to the Israeli Democracy Index, about two-thirds of Israeli citizens do not agree with the statement, "Men are more successful political leaders than women." A gender analysis of the 2007 survey results revealed that 55% of men, as opposed to 70% of women, disagreed with the statement. The optimistic interpretation of these findings is that one out of every two men does not think that women are less successful than men as leaders (though half the male population thinks the opposite). The pessimistic interpretation is that one out of every five women (19%) agrees with the statement, and one out of ten (12%) is uncertain. The fact that a third of the Israeli public does not see a natural connection between "women" and "leadership" may be attributed to the dominance of security issues in the country. In Israel's militaristic culture, there is a tacit assumption that leaders must have a defense-related background. In the US as well, public willingness to support female presidential candidates dropped after 9/11, when defense became an issue of overwhelming public concern. Is there any chance of seeing a local Hillary Clinton? While Israel has already had a female prime minister (Golda Meir, between 1969 and 1974), she is, essentially, the exception that proves the rule. Throughout the country's history, women's representation in politics has been embarrassingly low, placing Israel, percentage-wise, on a par with Zambia and Cameroon. It is not clear if Israel's militaristic culture is the obstacle to women's entry into top-level government positions. In any event, experience worldwide has proven that worthy female candidates will be elected despite, or because of, the fact that they are women. Asher Arian, Nir Atmor and Yael Hadar researched the issue of gender's influence on voting patterns at the behest of The Israel Democracy Institute