Americans Ponder Possibility of a Woman President in 2008

Forty years ago, the idea of a female President of the United States was the premise of a frothy Hollywood comedy. In 2005, American television audiences were riveted by "Commander in Chief," a serious weekly drama about the first woman President. Now, with New York Senator and former First Lady Hillary Clinton's announcement that she plans to seek the nation's highest political office, the notion of a woman in the White House is no longer fiction, but a strong possibility.

For more than two centuries, Americans have elected only white males to the White House. But activists for women's equality believe the political tide in the United States is turning. Last November's national elections helped California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi become the first woman Speaker of the House of Representatives, a post only twice-removed from the presidency. The fall balloting brought many other women into top political jobs. Women now hold 9 governorships, 71 House seats, and a record 16 out of 100 seats in the U.S. Senate.

Melody Drnach, a Vice President of the National Organization for Women, believes the stage is set for a woman to attain the highest office in the land. "I would like to think that we are moving in that direction," she says. "And with a lot of hard work in the next couple of years, I think that this country is prepared to elect a woman as president of the United States."

Drnach says voters have taken note of the highly visible leadership role being played by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. It's the kind of role many voters believe is long overdue for American women, according to Stephen Hess. A senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, Hess, too, believes that America is ready for a woman president.

"To begin with," he explains, "women are the majority of the voters in the U.S. Fifty-two percent of the voters are women. The public opinion polls seem to show that women are particularly interested and anxious to see a woman president. So, in some ways it may be not a disadvantage, but an advantage to be a woman running for president on a major party ticket in our next presidential elections." He concludes that the time has come for women in America to "climb the ladder" to the presidency after a long history of fighting for their rights.

But not everyone is convinced the time is right. Morgan Felchner, editor of the magazine Campaign & Elections, doubts that a majority of Americans would vote for a woman president.

"Americans, in theory, are ready for a female president," Felchner observes. "But when you actually look at the poll numbers, it becomes a little bit more troublesome for a female candidate." She adds that if you ask somebody whether they would vote for a woman candidate, they say yes, but if you ask somebody whether their neighbor would vote for a woman candidate, they more often say no. Felchner says that neighbor poll tends to hover around 50 percent. "So that seems to be a more real number," she concludes, "that about 50 percent of Americans are really ready for a female president."

Political scientists and historians argue endlessly about why there have not been more females in American elective office, and why, until now, there have been no viable, major-party female presidential candidates. But Brooking's Stephen Hess believes the idea of a female president is simply one that has had to evolve, as American society has evolved. "Politics in public life is like anything else," he observes. "You do not start at the top. It is a ladder which you climb up." He points out that women were not even allowed to vote until the time of World War I, so the nation would not have had a woman president before that. "So, in 220 years of the United States, half of that time, women were not national voters!"

Hess adds that for many years, American women were predominatly homemakers, and were less likely than they are today to be in the job market. "So they were not in the sort of lineup from which we choose presidents," Hess notes. But that lineup today includes a growing roster of well-known female lawmakers, governors, and other experienced political operators. It also now includes one announced candidate - Senator Hillary Clinton - who already has personal experience in the White House as First Lady.

Melody Drnach of the National Organization for Women says the Clinton element is likely to have a dramatic impact on the way Americans choose their next president. "Senator Clinton has a proven leadership [ability]," Drnach says. "She has got a track record of success and support, she has been a staunch supporter of women's rights and will continue to do so. She is very talented, very committed and she is a very good Senator. And we have great hope that, if she wins the [Democratic] party's nomination, she will be a very strong president."

According to a new Newsweek poll of registered voters in the United States, 86 percent say they would vote for a qualified woman candidate for president if their party nominated one. But when they were asked whether America is ready to elect a woman president, only 55 percent say yes. Still, that's up 7 percentage points from a 1999 poll. Curiously, the Newsweek poll found that men are more likely than women to say the country is ready for a woman president. Those attitudes may well shift between now and the 2008 Presidential election, still almost two years down the road.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs