Tonight in Westerville, Ohio, four female candidates will be on stage for the fourth Democratic presidential debate. This is a groundbreaking moment for women in politics as for the first time in history more than two women are competing in the same major party’s presidential primary.
The presence of these women on the debate stage has made many Americans wonder: Are we finally ready to shatter the thickest glass ceiling and elect a female president?
According to a 2018 PRRI survey, a majority of Americans say the country would be better off with more women in political office.
Six in ten Americans (60%) agree with this, up from 58% who agreed in 2016. The number of Americans who completely agree has increased from 16% in 2016 to 26% in 2018. There was also an 11-point decrease in those who disagree with this statement, from 40% in 2016 to 29% in 2018.
Most notably, there is an almost 50-point partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans in their attitudes about the benefits of increased representation of women in political office. An overwhelming majority of Democrats (80%) agree that the country would benefit from having more women in political office, while only 31% of Republicans say the same. A majority of Republicans (53%) don’t believe that the country would benefit from more female representation.
It is worth noting here that the Democratic Party has had more success than the Republican Party in recruiting and electing women to run for office. Of the record 127 women serving in Congress this year, 106 are Democrats, while only 21 are Republicans. Similarly, in state legislatures across the country, 1,448 are Democrats while 663 are Republicans.
Although many Americans say the country would benefit from greater female representation, many Americans also say the gender of a candidate isn’t important to them.
A majority of Americans (70%) say a candidate’s gender doesn’t matter to them, while almost one in five (17%) say they would prefer a female candidate, and 11% say they would prefer a male candidate.
Although majorities of Democrats (63%) and Republicans (75%) say candidate gender isn’t important, Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to say they would prefer a female candidate (27% vs. 6%).
There are also significant gender divides within the parties. Democratic women are more likely than Democratic men to say they would prefer a female candidate (33% vs. 18%). Republican women demonstrate the opposite trend, as they are more likely to say they would prefer a male candidate than Republican men (23% vs. 14%).
 Center for American Women and Politics, Rutgers University