Many Americans grapple with attitudes around masculinity

New Politico Magazine/Ipsos poll finds that partisanship drives attitudes around gender, masculinity

The author(s)
  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Annaleise Azevedo Lohr Director, US, Public Affairs
  • Sarah Feldman Senior Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs
  • Bernard Mendez Data Journalist
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Washington DC, July 14, 2023—New Politico Magazine/Ipsos polling finds that partisanship mediates attitudes on masculinity, sexism, and gender roles. As politicians and public officials speak with the public around masculinity, some communications are landing with the public, and cutting across partisan lines, while other talking points are not. Read the Politico article here.

Americans hold mixed views on gender and masculinity

Detailed findings:

1. Americans hold some gendered perceptions of certain words.

  • When asked what words are associated more strongly with women, men, both, or neither, a majority of Americans associate words like “provider,” “strong,” “courageous,” and “leadership,” with both men and women, including majorities of Republicans and Democrats.
  • Among those who do associate these descriptions with a single gender, Republicans are more likely to associate the words with men, though a majority still associates each term with both men and women, while Democrats are evenly split.
  • For the words “compassionate” and “vulnerable”, Americans are split on whether they associate these words with women or both men and women. The words “independent” and “responsible” are associated with both men and women by a majority of Americans, but of those who associate them with a single gender, more associate them with women.
  • Except for the word “vulnerable,” which is perceived equally as positive as it is negative, each of the other words tested are seen as positive descriptions by most Americans.

2. Attitudes are split by partisanship around sexism, gender roles, and media representation of both.

  • Overall, over one in four Americans agree that over the past few years, the government and news have been showing more concern about the treatment of women than is warranted (28%), with that about half of Republicans agreeing (47%), compared to just 16% of Democrats and 23% of independents.
  • Additionally, Republicans (52%) are much more likely to say that a traditional family structure best equips women to succeed than the general public (30%) and Democrats (16%).
  • To that end, 17% of Americans agree that if “certain groups” stayed in their place, we would have fewer problems. Republicans (28%) are twice as likely as Democrats (13%) and independents (15%) to agree with this.
  • Looking at how gender roles and the economy intersect, about half of Republicans say that the decline in manufacturing jobs have made it harder for men to succeed (48%), compared to 26% of Democrats and 37% of independents, who are in line with Americans overall (36%).
  • When it comes to the MeToo movement, over one in three Americans (37%) say that the MeToo movement has made it harder for men to feel like they can speak freely at work. There are deep divides by partisanship with two in three Republicans (65%) versus 21% of Democrats and 33% of independents agreeing.
  • Thirty-six percent of Americans agree that entertainment and culture make it hard to feel proud to be a traditional guy, breaking down to a majority of Republicans (63%) who feel the same, 32% of independents and 15% of Democrats.
  • Overall, one in three Americans (31%) agree that the Democratic party is hostile towards masculine values, with 68% of Republicans, 27% of independents, and 6% of Democrats agreeing.
  • Most Americans (61%) support policies that prohibit discrimination against trans people in the workplace, with most Democrats (76%) and independents (67%) agreeing, while Republicans (41%) are more split.

3. How some politicians are communicating with Americans around masculinity and gender is landing with some segments of the country.

  • Roughly seven in ten Americans (69%) agree with Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff when he said “We’ve kind of confused what it means to be a man, what it means to be masculine. You’ve got this trope out there that you’ve got to be tough and angry and lash out to be strong. It’s just the opposite. … Strength is how you show your love for people. … And how you stick up for other people and [push back] against bullies.” Democrats and Republicans are equally likely to agree with this sentiment (73% agree, respectively).
  • A decisive majority of respondents (64%) agree with Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) when he said:
    “We’ve got to call men back to responsibility … we’ve got to say that spending your time not working … spending your time on video games, spending time watching porn online while doing nothing is not good for you, your family or this country.” Majorities of Republicans (81%), independents (60%), and Democrats agree (59%).
  • A bare majority of Americans (55%) agree that there is stigma around men being vulnerable, as Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY 14) has said. Democrats (60%) are more likely than Republicans (51%) to say that there is a stigma around men being vulnerable.
  • In a quote, unattached to a specific public official, the survey finds that few Americans agree (15%) that “Republican male candidates are manlier than Democratic male candidates.” Thirty-seven percent of Americans neither agree nor disagree, and 45% of Americans disagree. A minority of Republicans, Democrats, and independents agree.

About the Study

This Ipsos poll was conducted May 12-14, 2023 on behalf of Politico Magazine, using the probability based KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a representative sample of 1,016 U.S. residents, age 18 or older.

The study was conducted online in English. The data for the total sample were weighted to adjust for gender by age, race/ethnicity, education, Census region, metropolitan status, household income, and political party affiliation. The demographic benchmarks came from the 2022 March Supplement of the Current Population Survey (CPS). Party ID benchmarks are from recent ABC News/Washington Post telephone polls. The weighting categories were as follows:

  • Gender (Male, Female) by Age (18–29, 30–44, 45-59 and 60+)
  • Race/Hispanic Ethnicity (White Non-Hispanic, Black Non-Hispanic, Other, Non-Hispanic, Hispanic, 2+ Races, Non-Hispanic)
  • Education (Less than High School, High School, Some College, Bachelor or higher)
  • Census Region (Northeast, Midwest, South, West)
  • Metropolitan status (Metro, non-Metro)
  • Household Income (Under $25,000, $25,000-$49,999, $50,000-$74,999, $75,000-$99,999, $100,000-$149,999, $150,000+)
  • Party ID (Democrat, Republican, Independent, Something else)

The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample of adults. The margin of error takes into account the design effect, which was 1.16 for all adults. In our reporting of the findings, percentage points are rounded off to the nearest whole number. As a result, percentages in a given table column may total slightly higher or lower than 100%. In questions that permit multiple responses, columns may total substantially more than 100%, depending on the number of different responses offered by each respondent.

The survey also has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 6.0 percentage points for Democrats, plus or minus 6.3 percentage points for Republicans, and plus or minus 5.8 percentage points for independents.

For more information on this news release, please contact:

Chris Jackson

Senior Vice President, US

Public Affairs

+1 202 420-2025

[email protected]

Annaleise Azevedo Lohr

Director

Public Affairs

[email protected]

About Ipsos

Ipsos is one of the largest market research and polling companies globally, operating in 90 markets and employing over 18,000 people.

Our passionately curious research professionals, analysts and scientists have built unique multi-specialist capabilities that provide true understanding and powerful insights into the actions, opinions and motivations of citizens, consumers, patients, customers or employees. Our 75 solutions are based on primary data from our surveys, social media monitoring, and qualitative or observational techniques.

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The author(s)
  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Annaleise Azevedo Lohr Director, US, Public Affairs
  • Sarah Feldman Senior Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs
  • Bernard Mendez Data Journalist

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