Americans are Ready to See a Woman in the White House; Less Prepared to See a Woman Coaching a Male Sports Team

Across a variety of leadership roles, men are more likely than women to pick a gender (any gender) as the best choice; women are more likely to say it doesn't matter

Mar 01, 2016, 11:09 ET from The Harris Poll

NEW YORK, March 1, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- The United States may well see its first-ever female Presidential nominee from a major party this year, and results from a recent Harris Poll show that Americans are ready to be offered that choice. That said, nearly one in four (23%) Americans say they'd be more likely to trust a man as President of the United States than a woman – which stands in stark contrast to the 5% saying they'd be more likely to trust a woman. But to a strong majority of U.S. adults it's a non-issue, with 73% saying they'd be equally likely to trust either a man or a woman as President.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,225 U.S. adults surveyed online from October 14-19, 2015.  Full results of this study, including data tables, can be found here.

In fact, when looking across a broad spectrum of leadership roles, Americans simply don't think it makes a difference when asked to choose which chromosome count produces the best leaders. It's true that majorities feel some roles are more appropriate for one gender than another, but over eight in 10 adults say they'd be equally likely to trust a man or a woman as…

  • A news anchor (87%),
  • The head of a research lab (86%),
  • A judge (85%),
  • President/Dean of a college or university (85%),
  • The chief of medicine at a hospital (85%),
  • The top executive at either a not-for-profit or charitable organization (84%) or at a large for-profit company or corporation (83%), or
  • The principal of a primary or elementary school (82%).

Strong majorities also feel men and women are equally deserving of trust as the leader of a religious congregation (73%) or as a military officer (68%). It's only when the conversation turns to sports that Americans start parsing candidates by gender:

  • Just over half would trust men and women equally to coach either a professional women's sports team (56%) or a female sports team at a school (51%), with most of those who pick one gender over the other seeing women as the logical choice (39% professional, 45% school).
  • Meanwhile, just under half would trust either a man or a woman equally to coach a male professional (47%) or scholastic (46%) sports team, with those choosing between the two overwhelmingly selecting a man (50% professional, 49% school).

One finding which seems to hold true across most roles is that men are generally more likely to pick a gender – any gender. Men are more likely than women to say they'd lean toward trusting a man for the majority of roles tested – but they're also more likely to choose a woman in most situations. Women, meanwhile, are consistently more likely to put their trust in both equally.

  • Further supporting this point, men are more likely than women to agree that some leadership roles are more appropriate for men than for women (68% men vs. 54% women) and that some are more appropriate for women than for men (66% vs. 56%, respectively).

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This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between January 19 and 21, 2016 among 2,057 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

The Harris Poll® #16, March 1, 2016
By Larry Shannon-Missal, Managing Editor, The Harris Poll

About The Harris Poll®

Begun in 1963, The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys measuring public opinion in the U.S. and is highly regarded throughout the world. The nationally representative polls, conducted primarily online, measure the knowledge, opinions, behaviors and motivations of the general public. New and trended polls on a wide variety of subjects including politics, the economy, healthcare, foreign affairs, science and technology, sports and entertainment, and lifestyles are published weekly. For more information, or to see other recent polls, please visit our new website,

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SOURCE The Harris Poll