UW-Madison Survey: Independents Less Likely Than Democrats Or Republicans To Vote For Women

Survey: 13 Percent Of Public Nationwide Does Not Like Idea Of Woman Being Elected President

People voting behind a curtain
Elise Amendola/AP Photo

A University of Wisconsin-Madison survey found Independent voters are less likely than Democrats or Republicans to vote for a female candidate.

Barry Burden, political science professor at UW-Madison, along with a colleague, conducted two internet surveys to find out if the national public is bias for or against a female candidate running for office.

The first survey found that about 13 percent of the national public does not like the idea of a woman being president.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

The second survey looked more closely at political parties. It presented respondents with different sets of hypothetical candidates to compare. Burden randomly selected different characteristics for each candidate such as age, race and sex.

When Independent voters had to choose between a male and female candidate, the woman got about 4 percentage points less of the vote, regardless of the other characteristics listed. That’s more than the survey’s average of 2.5 percentage points.

“Because (Independent voters) don’t have a connection to one of the major political parties, they end up relying on the traits of the candidates much more than Democrats and Republicans do,” Burden said. “Democratic and Republican voters, once they find out the parties of the candidates, very much vote along those lines and that just doesn’t leave much room for them to think about other things like the age or race or sex of the candidate.”

Burden also found women voters were not bias against female candidates, whereas men preferred to vote for male candidates.

Each survey had a nationally representative sample and each consisted of 1,733 respondents. The surveys did not ask respondents directly if they would vote for a woman running for president in order to prevent socially acceptable answers. The surveys also included unrelated questions about different topics to distract from Burden’s real purpose of the surveys.