As politicians celebrate National Women’s Day March 8, a recent poll showed the obstacles that females still have to overcome in the Garden State.
That’s the major takeaway from a recent Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) Poll which stated sexism is holding back the cohort for running for statewide office.
FDU found sexism and perceived threats to male dominance were costing Democratic women around six points in favorability statewide—a number that could be a substantial deficit in tight races.
Sexism in Both Parties
“Sexism is present in men and women, Democrats and Republicans,” said Dan Cassino, a professor of Government and Politics at FDU, and the director of the poll. “And sexism doesn’t mean being against all women, just those that are seen as being the wrong kind of woman, a group that’s much more likely to include Democratic than Republican candidates.”
FDU placed the study on sexism within a larger survey looking at potential 2025 gubernatorial candidates for New Jersey. Within the larger study, 2021 nominee Jack Ciattarelli and talk show host Bill Spadea were listed as Republican nomination front-runners.
Effect on 2025 Race?
Rep. Mikie Sherrill is identified as a possible candidate for the Democratic nomination. It is worth noting that New Jersey never elected a woman to the U.S. Senate, and Republican Christine Todd Whitman is the only woman to have been elected New Jersey Governor.
Utilizing shortened versions of the ambivalent sexism scale, FDU split respondents into two groups. On average, New Jersey residents in the more sexist bracket were six points less likely to say they had a favorable view of the female candidates in the survey.
Sherrill’s rating was especially impacted by the dynamic, with 14% of residents in that same bracket saying they know who she was and viewed her favorably.
Democrats Drive More of the Change
Interestingly, it was Democrats who were driving the differences between more and less sexist individuals within the state.
The FDU Poll reported that on the whole, Democrats had lower sexism scores than Republicans in the state. However, Democrats with higher sexism scores were 17 points less likely to say that they had favorable views of Sherrill (38% to 21%).
“Women candidates are stuck: seeming too feminine can make people think they’re not leadership material. Being too masculine can be seen as off-putting,” said Cassino. “This is exacerbated for women who are seen as feminists, making them threatening to men who are invested in the current system.”
Multiple Female Candidates
The FDU Poll randomly assigned respondents to the survey to be asked about all of the female candidates before all of the male candidates, or having the candidate order shuffled. The idea behind the process was that men who perceive female candidates as a threat would showcase these feelings if presented with five female candidates in a row.
On average, asking about the female candidates first led to a six-point decline in favorability among female candidates, with respondents being nine points less likely to say that they hold favorable views of Sherrill and Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver.
“Some voters are very responsive to threats to male dominance,” said Cassino. “One or two women on a ballot, especially if they’re not on the top of the ballot, might not be seen as a threat. But a whole lot of them definitely is.”