Is America Willing To Vote For A Female Candidate?

by Melanie Schmitz

The image of a woman in the White House may not be so far away after all, if the latest poll numbers are any indication. According to a recent Gallup poll conducted in early June, nine out of 10 voters said they would be willing to vote for a female candidate — almost twice the number of voters who said they would be willing to stand behind a socialist candidate. And that's huge news for 2016 candidates on the Democratic side.

Earlier polls had actually tracked higher, reported Gallup previously. A 2012 survey actually put support for female candidates at around 95 percent rather than the 92 percent the group reported on Monday. Part of this may be attributed to the fact that those surveyed were considering their current choices.

With Democrat and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the left and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina on the right, the restrictive prospects may have contended with voters sympathies — Clinton because of her notorious "Emailgate" scandal, and Fiorina due to her sordid departure from HP headquarters. But the numbers remain high, especially when compared with statistics from the same poll taken in 1978, when only 76 percent said they would vote for a female candidate. Better still, when compared to a 2007 Pew Research poll, that number has actually increased significantly from 88 percent.

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More surprising was the virtually nonexistent divide in polling between the two major parties. According to Gallup, Republicans were only 6 percent less likely to vote for a woman than their Democratic counterparts.

The most interesting result of Gallup's recent poll, however, stemmed from the wide gap between women and candidates with socialist leanings, such as formerly Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who entered the 2016 race as a Democrat in April. Only 47 percent of those surveyed responded positively when asked whether they would vote for a socialist presidential candidate who was highly qualified for the position — that's 11 percentage points lower than those who said they would vote for an atheist, and 13 percent lower than those who said they would vote for a Muslim candidate. Good news for religious (or in the former case, non-religious) diversity — bad news for Sanders.

Or at least, it should be bad news in theory. In reality, the self-described socialist Sanders has quickly begun gathering support for his 2016 bid, hot on the heels of rival Clinton, who according to a report by The New York Times in early June, has begun picking up momentum as Clinton's favorability numbers begin to fall.

With so few prospective voters indicating that they’re willing to vote for a socialist candidate, Sanders' campaign should, for all intents and purposes, be dead in the water — but if recent campaign appearances are anything to go by, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Much of Sanders' support may stem largely from the way Sanders has presented himself up until this point — more as an alternative to Clinton, who is seen as less than trustworthy, than an actual concrete policymaker. That's a shame for a candidate to steadfast in his resolve, but good news nonetheless.

There are still nearly 18 months to go before America casts its final vote, and a hefty seven month span remains between now and the Iowa caucuses. If the conflicting numbers and real-time reports continue on their current trajectory, America could be in for one exciting Democratic primary.

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