Politics Shape Views on Gender Equity, Study Finds

(CN) – The answer to how far the United States has come on the issue of gender equity depends on political affiliation, according to a study recently released by the Pew Research Center.

Pew poled 4,572 people online in August and September, and 82 percent of respondents considered achieving gender equity highly important. But their opinions on how far we’ve come in reaching that goal couldn’t be more diverse.

“Asked whether the country has gone too far, not gone far enough or been about right when it comes to giving women equal rights with men, half of the public says the country still has work to do, while 39 percent say things are about where they should be,” the study found. “These views differ by gender, education and, most of all, partisanship.”

According to lead author and Pew research analyst Renee Stepler, gender equity is one of several topics in which our political views inform our opinions.

“The partisan gap we see on views of gender equality is consistent with what we see across several issues,” Stepler said. “(Our) work over the years has documented a growing divide in a myriad of topics, including views on race relations, immigration and so forth.”

While 7 in 10 Democrats say more needs to be done to put women on an equal footing with men, 54 percent of Republicans are content with the status quo – and 18 percent say things have gone too far.

Between the pay gap and occupational discrimination, the biggest inequities reported occur in the workplace. Of those who believe men have it easier than women, “43 percent specifically mention that men are paid more than women and 29 percent cite greater employment opportunities or preferential treatment for men,” the researchers said.

Many also perceive men as having fewer household responsibilities, more political power, and less sexual harassment.

“You simply need to look at the percentages of male CEOs and relative salaries to see there is likely a systematic advantage to being male,” a 29-year-old male respondent wrote.

Those who believe women have it easier than men also cited occupational reasons, saying they believe women are given preferential treatment for jobs and in courts.

“Compared to white, heterosexual men, who have no laws or workplace policies to protect them from racial, sexual, and gender discrimination, women, particularly non-white women, fare better in the workplace, education institutions, and socially,” a 67-year-old woman responded.

When it comes to the impact of changing gender roles, Democrats are more likely to see a positive outcome than Republicans. More than 50 percent of Democrats – and only a third of Republicans – believe changing roles will made it easier for women to lead satisfying lives and families to live comfortably.

Only a quarter of Republications view changing roles as contributing to successful marriages, compared to 47 percent of Democrats.

Many Americans believe women stand to benefit from taking on a larger role in the workplace while men take on household responsibilities, but “Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to see benefits flowing from this societal shift,” according to the study.

Stepler said she hopes the data can help keep the public and other interested parties informed about the nation’s views on the current state of gender equity.

 

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