Regardless of their stance on universal health care, their voting record, or endorsements, the women running for president have been haunted by the same question: Are they “likable”? While all politicians are evaluated in terms of their likability, the equation is particularly fraught for women — especially since, typically, the more a woman exhibits qualities associated with authority, the more people tend to dislike her.
So how does this bode for the women running for president? To get at this question, the Cut and U.K.-based market research and data analytics firm YouGov polled more than 1,200 people of all backgrounds — boomers and millennials, men and women, progressives and conservatives. We asked respondents if they like or dislike four female candidates — Elizabeth Warren, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, and Kamala Harris — and why. (This poll was conducted before Harris dropped out.)
Here’s what we learned:
Of the four candidates, the Massachusetts senator was the most popular, with 39 percent of respondents saying that they like her. This makes sense: In nationwide polls, Warren has consistently been at the top of the pack of Democratic candidates, just behind front-runner Joe Biden. However, 36 percent of respondents said they didn’t like her. Of these people, most said they dislike her because they found her policies too progressive. People also cited her Native American ancestry claims and DNA test debacle. And then, there was someone who wrote, “Her voice reminds me of an old school teacher nagging me about how I’m an idiot. She’s shrill and irritating.”
Twenty-one percent of respondents said they like the Minnesota senator, and 30 percent said they don’t. (Twenty-one percent of respondents said they don’t know who she is.) Like Warren, most people said they dislike her due to her policies. But more than a few people cited allegations that she mistreats her staff: One respondent brought up that she allegedly “threw a stapler at an intern,” while another mentioned that she once ate a salad with comb. (Klobuchar has downplayed the allegations that she’s an abusive boss, saying she’s “tough.” Also, she allegedly threw a binder, not a stapler.) One respondent said they dislike Klobuchar because she “seems a little too politician-y.”
Twenty-one percent of respondents said they like the Hawaii representative, while 31 percent said they dislike her. ( Like Klobuchar, 22 percent of respondents said they haven’t heard of her). Many said they didn’t like Gabbard because they believe she’s a “Russian asset,” a theory propagated by Hillary Clinton and her supporters; respondents called Gabbard a Russian “bot” and “troll.” She also faced legitimate criticism over her past actions. One respondent criticized her over “her past statements about LGBT Americans,” while others slammed her for ties to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
While the California senator was the second-most liked candidate in the poll, the gap was wide: 29 percent said they like her, compared to Warren’s 39 percent. Harris was also the most disliked candidate, with 39 percent of respondents saying they don’t like her. Most people said they objected to her policies: One person wrote that they dislike her because she “does not support Medicare for All [and] she supports the carceral state.” Three respondents said they don’t like her because “she’s a cop.” One person simply wrote, “From California.” And another said, “There’s just something I don’t like.”