The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The ‘woman card?’ Plenty of Americans believe it’s very real.

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. (REUTERS/Alvin Baez)
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Clarification: The following story has been updated to clarify the content and timing of an Emily's List report referenced by the Associated Press. 

Men, on average, earn more money than almost any other group, and if they're white, can often do so with less education than others. Given their percentage of the population, white men hold disproportionately far more elected offices. Moreover, white men remain the most consistent recipients of bank loans at preferable terms and of quality health care. That much, research tells us to be true.

Yet, a large share of Americans see either no difference in the political travails faced by an uber-wealthy white man, Donald Trump, and a wealthy white woman, Hillary Clinton. And many believe that it's Clinton's gender that actually gives her an advantage.

A full third of Americans believe that gender provides no advantage to either candidate, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll released Monday, and about the same share of Americans say Clinton gets more of an advantage over Trump because she is a woman (32 percent) as say Trump has an edge because he is a man (29 percent).

Alexandra Petri explains the perks that come from signing up for a "woman card." (Video: Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)

Men regardless of party, Republican women and white Americans of both genders were all more likely say that Clinton benefits more from being a woman then Trump benefits from being a man. A full 38 percent of all men, 47 percent of Republican men and 35 percent of Republican women (the overwhelming majority of Republicans are also white) believe that Hillary Clinton, the first woman likely to become a major party's presidential nominee, has an advantage because of her gender. In addition to that, 34 percent of white Americans agreed.

Just to make that totally clear, take in the charts below.

Perhaps this is why the Associated Press reports that Emily's List, a pro-choice political organization that works to get more women elected to office, found something remarkable when, in 2015, it surveyed donors. Emily's List donors are committed to getting more women elected to office. But even these donors didn't think reminding them that Clinton is a woman in a historic position benefited the campaign. That's something Clinton did regularly early in this election cycle. The Emily's List information was not shared with Clinton directly. But, the candidate does appear to have changed course in recent weeks.

From the AP:

Clinton has stopped explicitly mentioning her role in history and joking about being the "youngest woman president." That's by design: Those kinds of direct appeals weren't working with voters.
"De-emphasize the 'first' talk," advised a research report done by Emily's List. "They already know she'd be the first woman president," the report said of donors, "but we don't get anything by reminding them."

This, we would reinforce, comes from a group devoted to electing women.

So it seems that when Donald Trump said a wider range of political attacks on Clinton are fair game because she can and does play the "woman card" in April, a significant share of Americans agreed. But, a goodly portion certainly did not or found the idea utterly laughable.

Trump’s ‘woman’s card’ comment escalates the campaign’s gender wars

Now, of course, it is more than a coincidence that white Republican men also make up the bulk of Trump's support and white Republican women a smaller but notable part of the Trump coalition. The poll's findings are likely another indication of some of the cultural ideas that unite Trump voters. There is lots and lots that's been written and said about how significantly aggrieved, angry and ignored some of these voters feel. And, to be sure, similar notions play some role in the way that many other Americans think about politics and the nation's policy needs.

But the difference between most of the groups highlighted in the first chart and most of those highlighted in the second is that, factually speaking, the advantages that come with being white and male may not be what they once were. But they aren't exactly bottom-rung either.

White Americans long for the 1950s, when they didn’t face so much discrimination

Consider the existence and utility of the woman card as one of the issues that officially divides the American electorate.