Understanding Gender Bias After Trump's Election Upset

More voters found Hilary Clinton qualified to be president.

ByABC News
November 9, 2016, 2:30 PM

— -- Donald Trump's upset victory over Hillary Clinton in the presidential election will likely be dissected by political and polling experts in the months and years to come. One subject will be of particular interest: the role gender bias played in the election.

Finding exact evidence of gender bias in the convoluted and polarized 2016 election may be nearly impossible; however, exit polling data can offer some insight. Gary Langer, president of Langer Research Associates, found that while 52 percent of voters said Clinton was qualified to be president, just 38 percent said the same about Trump. According to Langer's data, 23 percent of Trump’s own supporters said he wasn’t qualified to serve as president.

Despite these concerns, Americans ended up casting their vote for Trump at a much higher margin than they did for Clinton.

Corrine Moss-Racusin, an associate professor of psychology at Skidmore College, has studied gender bias. She said the fact that some of Trump's supporters acknowledged that he was not qualified to be president may be an example of a "classic gender backlash pattern."

For women, this can mean that they are considered competent for a job but not picked if they veer away from stereotypically female behavior, including "running for president," she noted.

"When [a woman] is highly qualified but because she violates expectations for how women have behaved, they don't like her," said Moss-Racusin of the theoretical situation. Because they don't like her, "they don't hire her."

Moss-Racusin said these results used to be known as the "Hillary Clinton effect."

A 2008 study co-authored by the Langer Research Association and social psychologist Julie Phelan reviewed past research on gender bias and found that women faced backlash at multiple points in their careers -- from job interviews to salary negotiation -- if they defied gender stereotypes and "self promoted." The authors found, however, that women would need to self promote in order to overcome stereotypes such as being subordinate or incompetent. During job interviews this "self-promotion" decreased the women's likability and therefore their chance of being hired.

“Women who transgress prescriptive norms by enacting agency, even if it is to succeed in a traditionally masculine domain, may elicit negative reactions,” the authors wrote.

Moss-Racusin said it's not just women who are punished by "gender backlash." She pointed out when men veer from stereotypical male behavior or apply for job in a typically female environment, they can face backlash from both men and women alike.

While votes are technically still being counted across the country, Moss-Racusin said she expects social psychologists to be pouring over the election outcome for future research. She also predicts renewed interest in understanding how voters' concerns for their livelihood intersects with their views on a candidate's race or gender.

"When we have an unprecedented social situation, we need unprecedented research in social science," she said.

Related Topics