Elizabeth Warren’s popularity slump is not about policy, it’s about gender

Posted by for People

The Democratic presidential nominee has dropped in the polls, but why? There is likely a deeply sexist subtext.

Not so long ago, Elizabeth Warren was the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination. 

Yet, in the last few weeks, her popularity has nosedived, seeing her drop down, peg-after-peg, to fourth in the polls. Her policies haven’t changed, so what has? There are a couple of possible explanations here. 

First, Warren’s stint at the top undeniably saw her become a target for rivals, hell-bent on boosting their own profiles, who all saw her sudden surge as the most immediate threat to their own paths to success. 

Suddenly, Warren’s plans to tax the rich and her calls for “big structural change” were being heckled as too “vague” and too ambitious. While the motives for these attacks were somewhat transparent, they likely had an impact on public opinion.

Admittedly, the somewhat-botched execution of her Medicare for All proposal, probably didn’t help. Warren was called out for supposedly evading questions on how she would pay for the trillion-dollar healthcare policy, which only exposed her to criticism from both her left and right flanks.

However, with the first vote in Iowa less than a month away now and with a lot at stake, there is another (more disheartening) factor at play here that is likely being given increased weight: her electability.

“I think when people see her and see her passion and energy, that really resonates,” Kim Maynard, a Brooklyn-based television producer, told The Guardian at a rally on Tuesday night. “But I think as a whole in this race people are looking for who they really think is the most electable candidate. The thing is, not everyone agrees on who is most electable.”

Warren is running for presidential in 2020

Warren is running for presidential nomination in 2020

Electability. While we could waste time dancing around what that means, let’s say it how it is, shall we? What makes a person more electable in America is being a man. Just ask Hillary Clinton.

Despite a record number of elected female politicians in the US now, and a woman at the helm of the highest political office for a Democrat – there’s no denying that America still has a women problem.

Until that entrenched pitfall changes, any presidential hopeful, regardless of how ‘vague’ or ‘ambitious’ their policies are, is going to be at a disadvantage, or if you like, less ‘electable’.

According to new research conducted by Kantar and the Women Political Leaders, there is a particular bias among Americans against women holding the country’s highest position of power. 

Specifically, only 54% of Americans – including women – feel “very comfortable” about having a female president. Worse still, when researchers looked just at male respondents, that number dropped to less than half.


Former Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton

Another 2019 study asked 1041 registered Democratic voters who they would support if the primary election was that day, compared to who they would vote for if given a “magic wand” which removed any worries about electability.

Fascinatingly, the study found voters were more likely to pick Warren if electability worries were removed from the equation. Meanwhile, 78% of those who shifted from a male candidate to a female candidate when given a magic wand admitted they believed it was “harder” or “much harder” for a female candidate to beat Trump. Most also denied any personal bias or sexism.

The good news is Warren remains undeterred.

On Tuesday night, the presidential hopeful jogged out to Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” at a Brooklyn rally, her optimistic buoyancy infectious. 

This, coupled with her recent media blitz – appearing on five national television shows this week alone – proves the fight is far from over.

Intelligence, determination and optimism. Makes her pretty electable, no?

Images: Getty

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Jessica Rapana

Jessica Rapana is a journalist based in London, and enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content. She is especially fond of news, health, entertainment and travel content, and drinks coffee like a Gilmore Girl.

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