Does Political Rhetoric Mobilize Women? Donald Trump and the Feminist Movement

University of Oklahoma

Does Political Rhetoric Mobilize Women?

Donald Trump and the Feminist Movement

Caroline Graham, Shaya Kellogg, Gloria Noble, and Alexa Smart

Gender, Power

Dr. Israel Trummel

May 12, 2017

Abstract

In 1992, Anita Hill’s testimony against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas did not stop or end the confirmation hearing, but mobilized women in the largest numbers in history. We are looking to find if President Trump’s rhetoric about women has mobilized women— in some ways similar to 1992. His language has elicited backlash from women. Therefore, we are looking to see if sentiments toward the Feminist movement and support for Trump, have a negative relationship.  Finally, we find an inverse relationship between support for Trump and the Feminist Movement.

Introduction

The 2016 Presidential Election set the stage for women to become reinvigorated in Feminist Movement related issues. This election included the first female nominee of a majority party. Former Democratic party was in competition with male opponent who wielded Clinton’s gender against her— like many male candidates preceding him. Donald Trump ended up winning the 2016 Presidential Election which may have lead to a rise in support for the Feminist Movement due to his blatant for shutting down sexism. President Trump’s favorability among women continues to drop, and his language and actions do not set a tone for the advancement of women. Women have reinvigorated their cause, and its source, most possibly, is the inauguration of Donald Trump (Ghitis 2016).

Literature Review

Interpretations of the Feminist Movement 

Feminism, as a movement, involves awareness of gender inequality and the progression towards justice. In regards to gender; feminism is also considered as a social movement that has the end goal of equality between men and women (Harnois 2012). Although there is not a single position or definition of the Feminist Movement, scholars argue that the goals of the Feminist Movement are what unite those who consider themselves as “Feminists” (Bronstein 2005; Orr 1997). These goals include equal pay, the Equal Rights Amendment, legal abortions and harsher sentences for rapists and batterers (Bronstein 2005).

There is significant literature regarding the Feminist Movement and the confusion surrounding it (McCabe 2005). For the purpose of this research we will use basic definitions from various scholars in attempt to construct what Feminism means and entails. This attempt will exemplify that the meaning and interpretations of the Feminist Movement vary— which will then begin to explain the confusion surrounding the Feminist Movement.

Feminism has played a significant role in bringing about changes to social order that has led to women and young girls to have more choices available to them than that of previous generations’ (Aronson 2003; Budgeon 2001). Still, Feminism historically and currently is surrounded by internal and external tension, fragmentation, and conflict (Aronson 2003; Budgeon 2001). The type of Feminism seen today is Third Wave Feminism (Harnois 2008; Orr 1997).

Before Third Wave feminism we saw Second Wave Feminism, which related to those who were involved with the American Women’s Movement of the 1960-1970’s (Harnois 2008; Orr 1997). Third Wave Feminism’s main aspect is to include those who were excluded from the Second Wave (Harnois 2008; Orr 1997). Those excluded were excluded based on aspects like; race, class, and sexual orientation (Harnois 2008). In other words, Second Wave Feminism was inherently focused on the interests of white, privileged women (Harnois 2008).

Feminism, as a movement, involves awareness of gender inequality and the progression towards justice. In regards to gender; feminism is also considered as a social movement that has the end goal of equality between men and women (Harnois 2012). Although there is not a single position or definition of the Feminist Movement, scholars argue that the goals of the Feminist Movement are what unite those who consider themselves as “Feminists” (Bronstein 2005; Orr 1997). These goals include equal pay, the Equal Rights Amendment, legal abortions and harsher sentences for rapists and batterers (Bronstein 2005).

Scholars have argued that although Americans show support for various goals associated with Feminism— while they still do not identify as feminists (Aronson 2003; Harnois 2012; McCabe 2005). Other Americans partake in what might be described as feminist practices or activism, but simultaneously do not describe those activities as feminist activities, or describe themselves as feminists (Aronson 2003; Harnois 2012; McCabe 2005). One essential, argued reasoning for this occurrence involves the confusion surrounding what identifying as a feminist entails (Aronson 2003; Budgeon 2001; McCabe 2005; Weiss 1998).

Scholars argue that part of the confusion associated with the those who do not identify with the Feminist Movement is attributed with the negative word association involved, such as; “man-hating, feminazi, and lesbian” (McCabe 2005; Weiss 1998).

This section relates to our study because when people have misinterpretations of a movement, they will not be able to successfully claim or deny support for it. Some people do not even know that they are feminists but when they answer a set of questions that align with feminism, they usually support more values of the Feminist Movement than they claim and realize.

Party Identification and the Feminist Movement

One’s political party identification is strong, and Converse (1964) argues that the American voter is relatively uninformed and seeks information based upon party identification. The reliance on political party replaces rather understanding political policy, party stances, or party opinions— because party identification guides voters throughout obstacles of issues like that (Converse 1964).

Throughout other studies, party identification, without other information, remains steady (Bullock 2011). Therefore, we assert that party identification and its relationships to the Feminist Movement will be relatively consistent with Democrat, Republican and Independent Parties.

Nicolas Winter (2010) finds that explicit gender ideals have become associated with political parties, over the past three decades. Winter (2010) explains that the parties have become more divided on issues related to femininity and masculinity, and those characteristics have become attached to Democrats and Republicans. Winter (2010) argues that these ideas have become surface level for voters, but too, are unconsciously working when building gendered ideas associated with political parties.

The association with gendered ideas, when discussing issues related to femininity of masculinity, in the late 1970s and early 1980s. These discussions were centered on discussions about the Equal Rights Amendment and more open discussions about women’s rights (Winter 2010). In 1980, the parties took their respective stance, and that the parties held the same stances then that they do today (Winter 2010).

Republicans do not tend to campaign on issues related to women’s rights while Democrats tend to be more dedicated to female-related issues (Winter 2010). This has led to our modern-day understanding that, “these partisan differences were reinforced and made more salient by the growing role within the Republican coalition of [sic] anti-feminist groups and the Social Conservative Movement and by the alliance of feminist groups with the Democratic Party” (Winter 2010, 5).

Once these parties further entrenched themselves in their party position, these gendered ideas became associated with each party (Winter 2010). Winter (2010) concludes that his findings “suggest that we should not think of party and gender stereotypes as independent alternatives, but rather as two sets of stereotypes with important links. This is true in the narrow sense that party stereotypes may contain implicit gendered content. More broadly, my results speak to the intersectionality of gender and party stereotypes: the ways in which gender and party categories may each derive their meanings in part from their relationship with the other” (Winter 2010, 22).

The United States political systems are deeply polarized on a host of issues. This country is divided on almost political position— known as conflict extension (Layman et al. 2006). Therefore, support for the Feminist Movement aligns with their political party identification. Often, Democrats and those who have more liberal views tend to show support for Feminism (Smith and Winter 2002). In opposition, Republicans, and those who align with conservative policy, tend to separate themselves from the Feminist Movement (Smith and Winter 2002).

The differences between Republicans and Democrats have been described as “a battle between the sexes,” (Lepore 2016). According to Smith and Winter (2002), Conservatives show “hostility and disapproval” to “supporters of Feminism and the Women’s Movement.” Additionally, they explain that the right-wing supports typical gender roles and do not agree with the disruption of the current power structure of men above women (Smith and Winter 2002).

Democrats have been described as Republicans as waging “a war on women,” (Lepore 2016). The lack of feminist support within the Republican Party is evident (Bolzendahl and Myers 2004).  This was demonstrated when the explicit tape of Donald Trump objectifying women was released.  He did not face consequence and was still able to continue his journey to the White House.

Another large controversy between the parties is based on pro-life versus pro-choice. A major factor of the Feminist Movement is that women should have the right to their own bodies (Bolzendahl and Myers 2004). The parties remain divided on this issue (Bolzendahl and Myers 2004).  Pro-choice being the stance of the Democratic Party, whereas pro-life is a general stance of the Republican Party (Bolzendahl and Myers 2004).

The division of the issue is polarized between the two-party systems. The intense division between the parties, and the apparent dislike for members of the opposing party (Iyengar and Westwood 2011)— explains that we expect one’s political party and their ideals about the Feminist Movement to be intertwined.

It is possible that ideals held by political parties have led to issues for women— when discussing women’s issues. Pro-choice ideals may lead to misinterpretations and more problems for women (Lisa Smyth 2002)— conservatives argue against feminism. Conservatives argue against feminism when discussing that it is not perceived that men have more rights than women.

People attempt to debunk the gender gap and push it, along with other inequalities, aside as myths. Freeman (1993) stated that the parties have polarized around Feminism. Freeman (1993) goes into describing how the conservative view is on family structure, which holds that there should be two, heterosexual parents, and that the man should earn the money while the wife takes care of the family. Freeman (1993) explains that Democrats use the argument that these feminist issues are personal issues and equality must be given to both genders.

People claim to promote Feminism with misconstrued ideas on what it actually is.

A problem that feminists face is the misconception of what Feminism is and what it stands for. Some believe that Feminism means women should be above men and others think problems like the gender gap do not actually exist (Johnston- Conover 1988).

The division of the dichotomous party system creates issues for women of the Republican party and their identification as a feminist. While the ideals of the Republican Party do not match up with the views of the Women’s Movement— Sarah Palin identifies herself a feminist (Douthat 2010). This becomes an issue with the base of her party— especially when she is credited with having the right to be one if she says she is one (Douthat 2010). Republicans and Democrats views towards women’s rights differ greatly (Douthat 2010). Party identification has a great impact on individuals placing validity and importance on feminism (Douthat 2010).

This section relates to our study because people put their party identification identity above many other beliefs and identities that they hold. A person may decide to deny support to the Feminist Movement strictly because public figures in their party, followed by the mass majority of their party do so.

Media and the Feminist Movement

The media is influential in the lives of the American public. The public learns information and is dependent upon the media for political information (Terkildsen and Schnell 1997). In this sense of dependence, the media has two ways of manipulating political interests (Terkildsen and Schnell 1997). The media is able to set the agenda and prime individuals to specific opinions or particular sides a story (Terkildsen and Schnell 1997). Different sides of a story would be defined as the “framing” of the story, and Terkildsen and Schnell (1997) explain that the way issues are framed is important because it is the way that the public will interpret and understand those issues.

Terkildsen and Schnell (1997) discuss the ways in which framing, impacts views on an issue. Economic and anti-feminist framing negatively impacted public opinion and support for the Feminist Movement and attitudes associated with gender roles (Terkildsen and Schnell 1997). This conclusion for a portion of Terkildsen and Schnell’s (1997) study demonstrates that the media can have an impact on individuals, whether positive or negative. Negative coverage President Donald Trump could have positively influenced the Feminist Movement because of his misogynist rhetoric.

Media coverage and framing have direct effects on the Feminist Movement (Bronstein 2005; Van Zoonen 1992). Media frames are powerful influences on how people construct their opinion of the Feminist Movement. One’s opinion will impact the ways in which they make decisions surrounding support for the Feminist Movement (Bronstein 2005; Van Zoonen 1992). Many frames regarding the Feminist Movement deal with the ways in which the movement is presented— the movement lacking legitimacy, that Feminism does not represent ordinary woman, and Feminism as anti-male (Bronstein 2005; Van Zoonen 1992). This frame has to do with the media showing outspoken, extreme representatives of the Feminist Movement.  These frames paint feminists as radical and over the top compared to the average American (Bronstein 2005; McCabe 2005; Van Zoonen 1992).

The way the media frames the Feminist Movement and the confusion surrounding it, result in young women finding it difficult to feel as though the Feminist Movement relates to their lives (Bronstein 2005; McCabe 2005; Van Zoonen 1992). This section relates to our study because the media has a massive influence on the common American ideals and mindset. If the media puts out a negative interpretation of the Feminist Movement, the public may decide to deny support for the movement when they may not have done so otherwise.

Trump and the Feminist Movement

In 2017, the Feminist Movement has gained news time, attention of those on social media, and has been front and center in Washington D.C., as well as other cities around the country. The conversation of women’s rights could possibly be amplified by Trump’s show of misogyny, when a recording was released about inappropriately grabbing women by their genitalia. As well as other instances from the way he treats his wife and daughters.

We pose these questions relating to the Feminist Movement: Is the movement growing? Is it more visible with its newsworthiness at this time? Is it decreasing? And finally, Does President Trump have an effect on its growth or inhibition?. Although there is not recent data on these questions— we hope to find whether a correlation exists between the Feminist Movement and Trump’s rhetoric towards women by looking at media coverage of the 2016 Presidential Election and the Feminist Movement.

Before Trump was elected to office, his favorability among women was relatively low. In March 2016, Gallup reported that 7 in 10 women “have an unfavorable view of Trump” (Newport and Sand 2016). Men viewed him as slightly more favorable— as 58% of men reported unfavorable views of Trump (Newport and Saad 2016). Gallup also reported that “Trump’s gender gap is larger than any other major candidate’s,”— Gallup began Presidential polls in 1952 (Newport and Saad 2016). His unfavorable view amongst women has continued to rise after Gallup began tracking his favorability ratings in July 2015 (Newport and Saad 2016). In April 2016, Gallup reported that it was a possibility that Trump’s favorability amongst women has decreased due to his “latest high-visibility comments about women and abortion,” (Newport and Saad 2016). These comments occurred before the October 2016 release of the explicit tape— the tape we have used as our treatment.

Recently, the Trump Administration continues their streak of declining favorability ratings among women, as well as other groups (Quinnipac University 2017). The poll demonstrates a continued rise in ‘unfavorable’ views of Donald Trump, but the Quinnipac University (2017) poll has a smaller number of respondents who held an unfavorable opinion of Trump. Gallup reported 7 in 10 women in April 2016, whereas Quinnipac University (2017) has reported 54% of female respondents view Trump unfavorably. Overall, both polls demonstrate that Trump is more likely to be unfavorable amongst women, than men (Gallup 2016; Quinnipac University 2017)— Gallup (2016) explains this phenomena could be explained by the increased likelihood that a man is a Republican while women tend to be Democrats.

The continued ‘unfavorable’ opinion of Donald Trump amongst women has led to increased displays of women’s mobilization against the newest administration. The day after Trump’s inauguration men, women and children took to the streets to protest his misogynistic rhetoric toward women as well as his language against minority groups (Malone and Gibson 2017). Trumps’ rhetoric, a majority negative toward men, drew focus to solidarity events across the world— for other women displaying support for their sisters in Washington D.C., these marches were “Sister Marches” (Malone and Gibson 2017).

Data & Methods

Hypotheses

Considering past waves of support for the Feminist Movement, such as the year of the women in 1992, research suggests that publicized misogynistic language or behavior towards women positively influences  support for feminism. Thus, we argue that Donald Trump’s misogynistic rhetoric regarding women has contributed to the recent upsurge in support for feminism and the Feminist Movement.

Specifically, we expect our data to support a number of findings. First, we expect that respondents given the Trump audio clip (or Trump Treatment) will express higher levels of favorability towards feminism than respondents not given the treatment (H1A).  We also expect that respondents will respond more favorably when asked about tenets of feminism than when asked about direct association with the feminist movement (H1B). Lastly, we expect respondents who identify with the Democratic party to express more favorability towards feminism than those who identify with the Republican party (H2).
Methodology

Data for this research comes from a survey experiment, which was distributed through various forms of media. The primary distribution method was social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and handful of surveys were distributed through text messaging and email. Aside from the demographic questions, the survey is made up of 10 questions, which have been divided into two variable groups: Trump rhetoric and feminism

There were also two political affiliation questions—registered political party and 2016 election vote choice. Election vote choice was included with the other political affiliation variable to account for the voters that may have deviated from their political parties during the 2016 General Election.

Treatment

In our survey experiment, we utilized an audio clip of Trump as the treatment, which half of respondents received. The control variables were all of the other questions in the survey. When applied, the treatment was presented following the demographic questions, but before the remainder of the survey questions in order to help identify whether the treatment impacted respondents’ answers.

Trump Rhetoric

This variable set consists of two variables regarding perceptions of Trump’s rhetoric. The purpose of including these variables was to determine whether the treatment had any direct influence on the way in which people perceive Trump’s language regarding women. These questions were asked immediately following the treatment, for those who received it, to help measure direct impact of the audio clip. To see the specific questions under this subheading, refer to Table 1.

Feminism

This variable set consists of eight variables, all of which are associated with feminism. The first six variables, tenets of feminism, consider issues that are commonly associated with the Feminist Movement. However, there are two variables from this subgroup that overlap. One asks about agreement with the definition of reproductive justice, and the other asks about stance on abortion. The purpose of including these overlapping variables was to try to identify if respondents had misunderstandings about issues associated with the Feminist Movement. The last two variables, association with the FM, are questions that ask about direct support of and ideological alignment with the Feminist Movement. To see the full list of variables and their corresponding questions, refer to Table 1.

Table 1. Variables and Corresponding Questions

Variable Name Survey Question and Coding
Trump Inappropriate Do you believe Trump refers to women inappropriately?

1=Definitely not, 5=Definitely yes

Trump Comment Which of the following best matches your feelings about his comments about “grabbing her by the pussy?”

1= It is a mainstream, appropriate way to talk about women

2= It is not appropriate, but it is how women are talked about

3= It is not appropriate

Reproductive Justice Do you believe that women and girls should have the right to the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, social and economic well-being of their own bodies?

1= Definitely yes, 5= Definitely not

Abortion There has been some discussion about abortion during recent years. Which best agrees with your view?

1=By law, a woman should always be able to obtain an abortion as a matter of personal choice

2= The law should permit abortion for reasons other than rape, incest, or danger to the woman’s life, but only after the need for the abortion has been clearly established,

3= The law should permit abortion only in case of rape, incest, or when the woman’s life is in danger

4= By law, abortion should never be permitted

Gender Pay Please select the answer you think best fits the United States:

1=Women make more money than men do

2= Women and men make equal money in every occupation

3= Men make more money than women do

Gender-Neutral Bathrooms Do you think that citizens of the Untied States have the right to facilities that are physically accessible, inclusive and welcoming to people of any gender?

1= Definitely yes, 5= Definitely not

Marriage Equality Do you think two people involved in a relationship/partnership/marriage should have equal stake in decision making?

1= Definitely yes, 5= Definitely not

Equal Stake in Relationship What is your idea of marriage?

1= Between a man and a woman.

2= Between two people that wish to be married.

3= It does not affect me.

FM Support Do you support the Feminist Movement?

1= Definitely yes, 5= Definitely not

FM Ideology How closely do your ideas align with the Feminist Movement?

1= My ideas align very closely (1)

2= My ideas align moderately closely (2)

3= My ideas do not align very closely (3)

4= My ideas do not align at all (4)

Results

The survey yielded 255 responses. In terms of the demographic makeup of the sample, the majority identified as female (75%), white (81%), and between the ages of 18 and 25 (67%). In terms of education, the sample was fairly educated with only 2 respondents (1%) without at least a high school diploma or GED. Surprisingly, almost half of respondents said they had at least their Bachelor’s degree (46%). In terms of political affiliation, a third of respondents identified as registered Republicans, about a third identified as registered Democrats (31%), and a quarter of respondents said that they were not registered with any political party. However, the 2016 vote choice distribution was slightly different. Surprisingly, 44% of respondents said they voted for Hillary Clinton and only 22% said they voted for Donald Trump.

Treatment

In looking to see if the treatment had any impact on perceptions of Trump and his rhetoric, one of the two Trump questions showed statistical significance. When respondents were asked if they believe Trump refers to women inappropriately, the treatment had a significant effect on those who said, “definitely yes.” 74% of respondents that received the treatment said, “definitely yes,” compared to 60% of respondents who did not receive the treatment and said the same. What this shows is that the treatment did impact perceptions of Trump’s rhetoric, pushing people to perceive his language as more misogynistic.

Figure 1. Survey Question: Do you believe Donald Trump refers to  women inappropriately?

Trump Rhetoric & Tenets of Feminism

With the tenets of feminism variables, we were trying to identify whether there was any statistical relationship between the ideas and issues that make up the Feminist Movement and surveys that did and did not receive the treatment. While our treatment appeared to have no effect on the degree to which people did or did not support issues associated with the Feminist Movement, the overall distribution of responses within this variable set produced some interesting results.

For the reproductive justice measure, respondents were given the definition of reproductive justice and then asked on a 5-point scale whether or not they agreed. An overwhelming majority of respondents expressed some degree of agreement with the statement (95%), and 87% said they “definitely agree” with the statement. However, when asked directly about abortion in the following question, the results were not nearly as unanimous. While a little over half of respondents said they believe abortion should be a woman’s personal choice (52%), about a quarter of respondents said abortion should only be allowed in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger (24%). With respondents expressing such high levels of support for reproductive justice, but significantly less support for abortion, results from these two variables suggest a possible disconnect between the understandings of each of these issues.

Similarly to the reproductive justice variable, there were two other variables that yielded fairly unanimous results. Regarding perception of the gender pay distribution, most respondents said they believed that men made more money than women do (90%), with only 9% of respondents expressing the belief that men and women are paid equal. The other somewhat unanimous result occurred with the equal stake in relationship measure. When asked if the two people involved in a relationship, partnership, or marriage should have equal stake in decision-making, about 20% of respondents said “probably yes,” and 78% of respondents said “definitely yes.”

However, the other two tenets of feminism that we tested produced more distributed results. When asked about gender-neutral bathrooms, 48% of respondents said they definitely support them, and 20% fell in the middle, while 14% expressed some degree of opposition. With the marriage equality variable, respondents were asked their idea of marriage and given three possible options. While 62% of respondents said marriage should be between two people that wish to be married, a quarter of respondents said that they believe marriage should be between a man and a woman.

Overall, what we found with our tenets of feminism variable set is that respondents expressed nearly unanimous favorability towards feminism in the reproductive justice, gender pay, and equal stake in relationship measures. However, with the abortion, gender-neutral bathrooms, and same-sex marriage variables, responses were much more scattered. As the latter set of variables consider topics that are commonly considered to be party polarizing issues, these results are not all that surprising.

Trump Rhetoric & Association with FM

In examining the treatment’s effect on association with the Feminist Movement, only one of the two variables showed statistical significance. When asked about ideological alignment with the Feminist Movement, 33% of respondents that received the treatment said that their ideologies closely aligned with the Feminist Movement, while only 22% of respondents that did not receive the treatment said the same. This suggests that it terms of ideology, Trump’s rhetoric might push more people to strongly align with the Feminist Movement.

While there was no relationship between the treatment and support for FM, per a test of statistical significance, there were some slight but notable variations in the data. When asked about support for the Feminist Movement, 65% of respondents that received the treatment expressed some degree of support, while 60% of respondents that did not receive the treatment expressed the same (5% difference). Conversely, 10% of respondents that did not receive the treatment said they definitely do not support the Feminist Movement while only 5% of respondents that received the treatment said the same. These numbers suggest that there could be a very slight, almost minute increase in support for the Feminist Movement for respondents that received the treatment. Conversely, 9% of respondents that did not receive the treatment said their ideas don’t align at all, compared to only 5% of respondents that did receive the treatment (4% difference).

 Figure 2. Survey Question: How closely do your ideas align with the Feminist Movement?

In terms of overall distribution, a significant portion of respondents identified moderately for both measures. Regarding support for the movement, although 44% of respondents expressed definite support, about a quarter of respondents identified as neutral and 48% of respondents said they fell between probably and probably not support. With ideological alignment, almost 50% of respondents said their ideas align moderately closely, and 17% said their ideas do not align closely.

Altogether, we found that the treatment largely had no effect on respondents’ stances on issues associated with the Feminist Movement—Trump’s rhetoric was not enough to change people’s positions. However, in terms of association with the movement, we found that there was a slight difference between surveys that did and did not receive the treatment. This suggests that Trump’s rhetoric might slightly influence people to associate with the movement more, while not at all influencing their actual stances on the issues themselves.

Political Affiliation and Feminism

In examining how respondents identified with all feminism variables by political affiliation, we used two variables to measure political affiliation: registered political party and 2016 election vote choice. The results yielded both expected and unexpected results. When asked about reproductive justice, unsurprisingly, 96% of registered Democrats said they definitely agree with the statement. However, 89% of registered Republicans expressed some level of agreement with the statement, and 76% of registered Republicans said they definitely agree with the statement. When asked about abortion, most registered Democrats unsurprisingly said they believe that it should be a woman’s personal choice (78%). However, the distribution between registered Republicans’ answers was very unexpected. Only 16% of Republicans said abortion should never be permitted, while 43% said it should only be allowed in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger. The most surprising finding with this variable was that almost a quarter of Republican respondents said abortion should be a woman’s personal choice (23%). With both registered Independents and unregistered respondents, they leaned towards abortion being up to the woman, with 53% of registered Independents saying it should be the woman’s personal choice and 30% saying it should be allowed as long as there’s an established need for it. With unregistered respondents, 59% said it should be a woman’s personal choice and 17% said it should be allowed as long as there’s an established need for it. Results from these two feminism variables suggest that our sample may have had slightly more liberal leanings, despite party affiliation.

Similarly to our other findings, the gender pay and marriage egalitarian variables produced somewhat unanimous results despite registered party. In terms of the perception of gender pay distribution, 99% of registered Democrats said they believe men are paid more than women, and 80% of registered Republicans said the same. As expected, however, a small portion of registered Republicans did express the belief that women and men are paid equally (19%). In regard to the equal stake in relationships variable, an expected but overwhelming majority of registered Democrats said they definitely believe that two people in a relationship, partnership, or marriage should have equal stake in decision-making (85%). Of registered Republicans, 93% expressed some degree of agreement, with 21% saying” probably yes” and 71% saying “definitely yes.”

Again, however, the feminism variables commonly considered to be polarizing issues yielded results a little closer to what we expected. Regarding gender-neutral bathrooms, while 60% of registered Democrats expressed definite support, 45% of registered Republicans expressed the same. While this may seem like a significant percent of Republicans, it is again important to consider the more liberal leanings of our sample. Registered Republicans also had the highest percent of respondents oppose gender-neutral bathrooms at 17%. The most interesting result for this variable occurred with registered Independents, who had nearly mirrored registered Democrats in most of the other feminism variables except for this one. Only a third of registered Independents said they definitely support gender-neutral bathrooms, while a little under a quarter said they probably support (23%) and a little over a quarter were neutral in the issue (27%). Unregistered respondents almost mirrored registered Republicans with 44% of respondents expressing definite support for gender-neutral bathrooms. However, only 7% of unregistered respondents expressed some degree of opposition to the bathrooms. The other polarizing variable was marriage equality, which produced results closest to what we’d expect party lines to show. While 83% of registered Democrats said they believed a marriage to be between two people that wish to be married, a majority of registered Republicans said they believed that marriage should be between a man and a woman. It was a bit surprising to see, however, that a third of registered Republicans said that a marriage should be between two people that wish to be married. Again, this result speaks to the liberal leanings of our sample. Both registered Independents and unregistered respondents aligned with Democrats in this particular issue with 69% of Independent respondents and 70% of unregistered respondents saying that marriage should be between two people that wish to be married.

In regards to association with the Feminist Movement, responses were distributed much differently. While 91% of registered Democrats expressed some degree of support for the Feminist Movement, only 30% of registered Republicans expressed the same. Another third of registered Republicans said they were neutral, and a little over a third expressed some level of opposition. Both registered Independents and unregistered respondents mirrored Democrats with majority support for the movement (73% and 66%).

pastedGraphic.png

Figure 3. Survey Question: Do you support the Feminist Movement?

In terms of ideological alignment, two-thirds of registered Democrats expressed very close ideological alignment with the movement and the other third expressed moderate alignment. Most registered Republicans, however, fell in the middle, with 40% expressing moderate alignment, and 40% saying they do not align very closely. Registered Independents and unregistered respondents mirrored one another with under a quarter of respondents expressing close alignment and above two-thirds expressing moderate alignment.

pastedGraphic_1.png

Figure 4. Survey Question: How closely do your ideas align with the Feminist Movement?

Most of the results for 2016 vote choice variable mirrored those of the registered party variable in regards to their relationship to feminism. However, there were a few exceptions, which occurred with the abortion variable and the gender-neutral bathroom variable. With abortion, 22% of respondents that voted for Trump said abortion should never be permitted, which is slightly higher than the percent of registered Republicans that said the same. With the gender-neutral bathroom variable, 22% of respondents that voted for Trump expressed some degree of opposition, which is also slightly higher than the percent of registered Republicans that expressed the same.

Conclusion

We were not able to confirm both of our hypotheses. Our study focused primarily on support for the Feminist Movement when paired with specific ideological beliefs, along with sentiments toward President Donald Trump. We found support for our hypothesis that relied on non-polarizing issues. We have concluded that the treatment may not have had an effect because the audio clip has been so publicly circulated that it is possible that most respondents could have already heard it. There is a possibility that the audio clip no longer had an impact because of this but we cannot draw conclusions from our data.

We did not find support for the hypothesis related to polarizing issues. The reasoning for this outcome could not be concluded through the data we collected, but there is scholarly work that concludes several different important findings that could compete with one another in our study— that would demonstrate the reasoning for our inability to prove our hypothesis.

Patricia Gurin (1985) discusses that women do not have a strong group identity, or that females do not have gender solidarity. Gurin (1985) writes this because she finds that White women, presumably, contribute to the social structure of hegemonic masculinity. Women benefit from the structure of male dominance, and women would be more likely to continue its practice. Therefore asserting that women do not think of themselves as an identity, but instead think of themselves as individuals within their gender identity.

While we did not find gender solidarity within women, political identification could be a stronger identity for female respondents. Converse (1964) writes that political identity could overshadow knowledge of policy and stances for a party but nonetheless, would lead someone to vote for the candidate from their party. We believe this occurred within our study. Although we perceived a relationship between support of the Feminist Movement and less support for Donald Trump to be the trend, we were unable to find a relationship. Here, regardless of one’s party ID— it would not influence specific sentiments to both the Feminist Movement and Donald Trump.

The absence of female solidarity and strength of one’s party ID would demonstrate the inability to find strength of both variables. We use female solidarity, primarily, because of the overwhelming number of female respondents we received.

With the absence of female consciousness and the recorded strength of party identification, it is possible that the effect of party polarization played a large part of this portion of the study. Iyengar and Westwood (2011) write that, “hostile feelings for the opposing party are ingrained or automatic in voters’ minds,” (690). This could have influenced one’s vote in the 2016 Presidential Election, to support the candidate of your party as well as support a candidate representing your party—no matter their actions, unless deemed completely unacceptable by the party.

We have concluded that the treatment may not have had an effect because the audio clip has circulated so much that its possible most respondents already heard it. It is possible that the audio clip no longer had an impact because of it being highly-circulated but we cannot draw conclusions from our data. The widespread usage the 45 second clip we used as our treatment would be defined as a pre-treatment. Our responses could be less valuable because of preconceived notions about Trump or about the content of the audio clip. Socialization to the wording Trump used in this recorded interview, of which we took 45 seconds to provide to respondents who received the treatment randomly, could have skewed responses away from negative sentiments toward his language about women.

While our study did not conclude definitive results for both our hypotheses— it creates a call to action for further research. It has been documented that there is a connection between women who identify with the Feminist Movement and who identity as liberal Democrats (Winter 2010). As well as the opposite, that the Republican Party tends to embrace traditional values therefore rejecting sentiments of the Feminist Movement (Smith and Winter 2002). The party distinction that is drawn between the two-party systems could demonstrate the reasoning for a lack of female consciousness as well as the inability to demonstrate that Trump is unfavorable.

As previously mentioned, Iyengar and Westwood (2011) write that individuals have become socialization to hold “hostile feelings” toward the opposing party. This is reinforced with Iyengar and Westwood’s documentation of the inability for partisan leaders to cooperate rather than engage in confrontation (2011). These “hostile feelings” and inability for elites to cooperate with one another could trickle down to the parties’ constituencies. This would mean that party polarization would allow for minimal support for the Feminist Movement for those of the Republican Party.

Iyengar and Westwood’s (2011) findings relating to strength of party polarization would reinforce the inability for the majority of Democratic voters because of “hostile feelings” felt for the opposing party—regardless of how a candidate of the opposing party talked about women. The reaction of Democrats toward Trump’s language toward women could be exacerbated by the strength of party polarization, and the party’s strong affiliation with women’s rights and the advancement of women in society.

Miriam Liss et al. (2001) demonstrate that feminist self-identification, primarily, by not identifying as a conservative and having a positive belief about feminists. Liss et al. looks to confirm that “self- identified feminists were more likely to believe in collective action; to hold liberal, radical, and womanist ideologies; and to endorse items in the Synthesis Stage of identity development” (2001, 124).

McCabe (2005) argues that there are relationships between education, political orientation, socio-demographics and attitudes towards feminist ideals. Scholars have argued, as McCabe (2005) mentions, that since the birth of the word and idea, “Feminism” has been attached to ideas of liberalism. Therefore, this confirms that those who identify with the Feminist Movement are more likely to identify as a liberal and/or Democrat. This is furthered by the idea of gendered political parties when Democrats sought to champion the Equal Rights Amendment and other related women’s issues (Winter 2010).

While we sought to find a connection between women and their political party to identify sentiments toward women— we were unable to do so. This could be for a variety of reasons. It is assumed that men identify as Republican and women identify as Democrat (Newport and Saad 2016). This explanation was used in Gallup’s April 2016 poll that described women’s opinion of Trump to be less favorable than of men (Newport and Saad 2016).

The counterargument could be the reason behind our findings— that one’s political party identity is stronger than any other factor involved in the decision making process, particularly about sentiments towards Donald Trump. The strength of one’s party identity generally outweighs policy stances and it could have been enough (Bullock 2011), coupled with the absence of female gender consciousness (Gurin 1985), to allow for women to identify with their political learning versus issues that are targeted against their gender.

References:

Aronson, P. (2003). Feminists or “Postfeminists”? Young Women’s Attitudes Toward Feminism and Gender Relations. Gender & Society, 17(6), 903-922.

Bolzendahl, C. & Myers, D. J. (2004). “Feminist Attitudes and Support for Gender Equality: Opinion Change in Women and Men, 1974-1998”. Social Forces 83(2), 759-790.

Bronstein, C. (2005). Representing the Third Wave: Mainstream Print Media Framing of a New Feminist Movement. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 82(4), 783-803.

Budgeon, S. (2001). Emergent Feminist (?) Identities Young Women and the Practice of Micropolitics. European Journal of Women’s Studies, 8(1), 7-28.

Bullock, John G. 2011. “Elite Influence on Public Opinion in an Informed Electorate.” Americans Political Science Review 105(3): 496-515.

Converse, Phillip E. (1964). “The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics.” In Ideology and Discontent, ed. David Apter. Glencoe: Free Press. 206-261.

Douthat, Ross. (2010). No Mystique about Feminism. New York Times. 23.

Freeman, J. (1993). Feminism vs. Family Values: Women at the 1992 Democratic and Republican Conventions. PS: Political Science and Politics, 26(1), 21-28.

Ghitis, F. (2016, October 27). Trump has awakened feminist revolution. Retrieved May 5, 2017, from http://www.cnn.com/2016/10/27/opinions/trump-brings-back-feminism-ghitis/

Gurin, Patricia. 1985. “Women’s Gender Consciousness.” Public Opinion Quarterly, 49:143-163.

Iynegar, Shanto and Sean J. Westwood. 2015. “Fear and Loathing Across Party Lines: New Evidence on Group Polarization.” American Journalism of Political Science, 59(3): 690-707.

Harnois, C. E. (2008). Re-presenting Feminisms: Past, Present, and Future. NWSA Journal, 20(1), 120-145.

Harnois, C. E. (2012). Sociological Research on Feminism and the Women’s Movement: Ideology, Identity, and Practice. Sociology Compass, 6(10), 823-832.

Johnston- Conover, Pamela. (1988). Feminists and the Gender Gap. The Journal of Politics 50(4), 985-1010.

Layman, Geoffrey C., Thomas M. Carsey, and Juliana Menasce Horowitz. 2006. “Party Polarization in America Politics: Characteristics, Causes and Consequences.” Annual Review of Political Science 9: 83-110.

Lepore, J. (2016). The Woman Card. New Yorker, 92(19), 22-26.

Liss, M., O’connor, C., Morosky, E., & Crawford, M. (2001). What Makes a Feminist? Predictors and Correlates of Feminist Social Identity in College Women. Psychology of Women Quarterly,25(2), 124-133.

Malone, S., & Gibson, G. (2017, January 22). In challenge to Trump, women protesters swarm streets across U.S. Retrieved May 5, 2017, from http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa- trump-women-idUSKBN1550DW

McCabe, J. (2005). What’s in a label? The Relationship Between Feminist Self-Identification and “Feminist” Attitudes Among US Women and Men. Gender & Society, 19(4), 480-505.

Newport, F., & Saad, L. (2016, April 01). Seven in 10 Women Have Unfavorable Opinion of Trump. Retrieved May 5, 2017, from http://www.gallup.com/poll/190403/seven-women- unfavorable-opinion-trump.aspx

Orr, C. M. (1997). Charting the Currents of the Third Wave. Hypatia, 12(3), 29-45.

Quinnipac University. (2017, April 4). QU Poll Release Detail. Retrieved May 12, 2017, from https://poll.qu.edu/national/release-detail?ReleaseID=2448

Smith, A., & Winter, D. (2002). Right-Wing Authoritarianism, Party Identification, and Attitudes Toward Feminism in Student Evaluations of the Clinton-Lewinsky Story. Political Psychology, 23(2), 355-383.

Smyth, Lisa. (2002). Feminism and Abortion Politics: Choice, Rights, and Reproductive Freedom. Science Direct, 25(3), 335-345.

Terkildsen, N., & Schnell, F. (1997). How Media Frames Move Public Opinion: An Analysis of the Women’s Movement. Political Research Quarterly, 50(4), 879.

Van Zoonen, E. A. (1992). The Women’s Movement and the Media: Constructing a Public Identity. European Journal of Communication, 7(4), 453-476.

Winter, N. J. (2010). Masculine Republicans and Feminine Democrats: Gender and Americans’ Explicit and Implicit Images of the Political Parties. Political Behavior, 32(4), 587-618.

Weiss, P. A. (1998). Conversations with Feminism: Political Theory and Practice. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s