Poll finds partisan split on whether US has gender equality

Poll finds partisan split on whether US has gender equality
© Getty Images

Americans are deeply divided along generational and partisan lines on the question of whether the nation has done enough to give women equal rights to men.

A new survey from the Pew Research Center finds about half of Americans say the country has not done enough to create gender equality. But those who identify themselves as Democrats and those in younger generations are far more likely to say women are still left at a disadvantage, while Republicans and those in older generations are more likely to say the country has done enough. 

Seven in ten Democrats and Democratic leaners say the United States hasn’t done enough when it comes to ensuring women have rights equal to men. And about half, 49 percent, say men have it easier today.


By contrast, just 26 percent of Republicans and lean-Republican voters say the country hasn’t done enough to ensure gender equality. Fifty-four percent say the county has been about right in measures to create a more equal society.

The differences in partisan views on gender equality mirror similar splits in views on racial equality.

“When we look at differences between Republicans and Democrats on gender equality, these are the same partisan gaps we’re seeing on things related to race,” said Juliana Horowitz, the study’s lead author. “The American public is extremely polarized along party lines.” 

A sharp education divide exists as well, especially among Democrats. More than eight in ten women with a bachelor’s degree don’t believe the country has gone far enough in creating equal rights for women, compared with 55 percent of women with a high school education or less who say the same.

Younger women are more likely than those in older generations to say men have it easier in the U.S. today. More than half, 52 percent, of millennial women say men have it easier, compared with just 37 percent of those between the ages of 37 and 71. Only three percent of millennial women and 5 percent of those in Generation X and the Baby Boomer generation say women have it easier, while the rest say men and women are about the same. 

Nearly half of Democrats, 49 percent, say men have it easier these days. Just 19 percent of Republicans said the same. 


Women are more than twice as likely as men to say they have experienced gender discrimination in some form, and Democratic women are more likely than Republican women to say they have experienced discrimination. That’s a sign, Horowitz said, that even one’s own experiences are being viewed through partisan lenses. 

Those who say they have experienced discrimination — both men and women — overwhelmingly say it happened at work.

“The workplace really is the setting where people are seeing these differences,” Horowitz said.

More than a third of women and men said they had been discriminated against in hiring, pay or promotions at work. About a quarter of women said they had been treated as if their opinions did not matter.

Democrats are more likely to see changing gender roles in American society as a positive. Nearly 60 percent of Democrats and leaning-Democratic voters say changing gender roles have allowed women to lead more satisfying lives, and about half say those changing roles have made it easier to have a successful marriage and raise children. 

By contrast, only about a third of Republicans and Republican-leaning Americans say changing gender roles have allowed women to lead more satisfying lives, and just a quarter say those roles are good for successful marriages.  

Since the end of World War II, women have experienced a significant economic boost, though men still make up a larger share of the workforce and make more money for doing the same job. Women make up about 47 percent of the workforce today, up from 30 percent in 1950. But men over the age of 16 make a median hourly wage of $19.23, more than three dollars an hour higher than the median woman’s wage of $16 an hour. 

Women earn an average of 83 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gap that has narrowed substantially since 1980. Women lead just 5 percent of Fortune 500 companies and hold only 20 percent of the board seats at those companies.

The Pew Research Center poll surveyed 4,573 American adults between Aug. 8-21 and Sept. 14-28. The survey’s margin of error stands at plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.