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Polling shows differing hopes, expectations for female leaders

Four in 10 adults say they hope to see a woman elected to the presidency in their lifetime, while 57 percent say it doesn’t matter whether they say, “Madam President” or “Mr. President.”

Those percentages should work in favor of Hillary Rodham Clinton if she decides to seek the Democratic nomination in 2016. And if not Clinton, then perhaps U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who repeatedly has said she isn’t running but is the focus of a draft campaign in New Hampshire.

The voters most interested in seeing a woman elected president in their lifetime are Democrats — 69 percent of the women in the party and 46 percent of the men, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center focused on women in leadership.

The percentages drop considerably for Republicans — just 20 percent of the women in the Grand Old Party and 16 percent of the men. Do these numbers indicate trouble for Carly Fiorina, the former California U.S. Senate candidate who appears to be readying to announce a bid for the Republican nomination? No, the analysts say. More likely the diminished interest among Republicans is Clinton herself: The views of many Republicans may have more to do with the prospect of a Clinton presidency than with a major milestone for women.

Among independents, 45 percent of women and 32 percent of men say they “personally hope the United States will elect a female president” in their lifetime.

Double standard

In 2013, EMILY’s List, a group dedicated to electing Democratic women to office, launched “Madam President,” a campaign to shatter the glass ceiling in the Oval Office in 2016.

Americans need to “create a nation where women’s leadership isn’t the exception, it’s the rule,” EMILY’s List president Stephanie Schriock said at the time.

That’s currently far from the case. The Pew poll found that Americans claim to find women indistinguishable from men in key leadership traits. But women still hold a small share of top leadership posts: 20 percent of the U.S. Senate, 19.3 percent of the U.S. House; 10 percent of governorships; 24 percent of state legislative offices; 5.2 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs and 26.4 percent of college presidencies. And in most cases, those low percentages are record highs.

The Pew poll, a survey of 1,835 people, found that four in 10 Americans think the reason more women don’t hold top posts is not about work-life balance, education or skill sets but instead a double standard: women have to do more than their male counterparts to prove themselves.

Ready for Clinton

Two weeks ago, EMILY’s List announced that its 30th anniversary gala in March would honor Clinton for dedicating her life to “bettering the lives of women and families and (inspiring) the next generation with a focus on increasing economic empowerment across the country and around the world,” according to Schriock.

The PAC has backed Clinton since her U.S. Senate election in New York in 2000.

Of late, EMILY’s List has been laying the groundwork for another, bigger Clinton candidacy, organizing special events promoting the idea of electing the first female commander-in-chief.

When EMILY’s List launched the “Madam President” effort nearly two years ago, the first polls showed that 86 percent of Americans said the nation is ready to elect a woman president. And 72 percent said it is likely that America will elect a woman in 2016.

The Pew poll also asked about expectations: “Do you think the United States will elect a female president in your lifetime, or not?” About 73 percent answered yes — 12 points less than in 2008 but 21 points over 1996. 

That year, with Bill Clinton running for re-election, then-first lady Hillary Clinton delivered her first prime-time speech, at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. 

“One thing we know for sure is that change is certain,” she said. “Progress is not.”

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