For Clinton, questions have often been raised about whether people can relate to her or think she's honest. In an infamous debate moment back in 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama quipped that Clinton was "likable enough" -- a telling, if ill-advised, comment from the then-future president.
Honesty is another quality research has been shown is more difficult for women than men to earn, and Clinton's trustworthy ratings this presidential cycle have suffered among voters skeptical of her use of a private email server while secretary of state.
Luckily for Clinton (and every other woman aspiring to public office), there are tangible ways female politicians can convince voters they're both qualified and likable. That's according to the nonpartisan Barbara Lee Family Foundation, which attempts in a new study to pinpoint exactly how voters measure this hazy, intangible quality of likability among women officeholders, so they could give such advice.
They and their partners asked likely 2016 voters on both sides of the aisle what they think of women politicians generally. (They did not study Clinton or any other presidential candidate in particular.)
Some of their suggestions are obvious; some are superficial. But the reality is that until voters measure men and women equally, women have to take this kind of stuff into account. You can read the whole survey here. Here are a few top do's and don'ts from their findings:
- Don't pose for a headshot. Instead, circulate more candid, informal photos of you engaging in your community -- say hanging out with children on a playground. "To show likeability, a woman doing her job among constituents is effective," the study's authors say.
- Do share personal anecdotes when explaining why you're passionate about an issue or how you've helped constituents.
- Don't take credit all the time for your accomplishments; every once in awhile share credit with your team.
- Don't take yourself too seriously. Have a sense of humor.
- Do work on issues that you value; voters can sense you're being true to yourself.
- Do recognize your hair, makeup and clothes will be scrutinized by voters much more than a man's.
- Above all else, be confident. And you can't fake it. "Voters assessed a woman officeholder’s confidence in less than 30 seconds," the study's authors said.
Like we said, some of this advice naturally makes a good politician of either gender, but other suggestions are more unique to women. We'll let you be the judge of whether Clinton -- the most famous female politician in America today -- abides by these guidelines, consciously or not.
But we'll end with one important caveat: While nebulous, likability is relative. And when your potential opponent is shaping up to be the least-popular major party nominee of modern times, maybe you can circulate that stoic headshot or have a bad hair day and still find success.