Posted at 12:01 am August 6, 2019, in Rutgers-Eagleton Poll

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New Brunswick and Madison, New Jersey (August 6, 2019) – New Jerseyans perceive women as being more emotional and men as more aggressive, but other views on gender have evolved, according to the latest poll results from the Rutgers-Eagleton/Fairleigh Dickinson University Polling partnership.

The joint poll asked New Jerseyans whether various personal traits apply more to women or men, or whether there is no difference between the genders. New Jerseyans’ views both confirm and move beyond commonly held gender stereotypes, showing that some attitudes have changed and some have endured since Rutgers-Eagleton and FDU last asked about these traits in 2003.

On the one hand, majorities believe there is no difference between genders when it comes to showing intelligence (80 percent), capable management (74 percent), ethical behavior (67 percent), manipulative behavior (60 percent), “people” skills (59 percent), logical or rational thinking (56 percent), self-centeredness (56 percent), decisiveness (55 percent), stubbornness (55 percent), or awareness of their surroundings (54 percent).

On the other hand, New Jerseyans perceive some stark gender differences in other areas and by wide margins. Respondents deem women as more compassionate (62 percent versus 3 percent who say men), emotional (63 percent versus 2 percent who say men), and better listeners (57 percent to 5 percent who say men). A plurality also say women are better multi-taskers (47 percent to 8 percent who say men), though virtually the same number (45 percent) feels there is no difference between the two genders. Women also edge out men when it comes to awareness (31 percent), being manipulative (27 percent), “people” skills (35 percent), intelligence (16 percent), morals (30 percent), and management capabilities (17 percent), though the vast majority thinks each of these traits equally applies to both.

New Jerseyans view men as more likely to be risktakers (50 percent versus 8 percent who say women) and more aggressive (56 percent to 6 percent who say women). They are also twice as likely to rank men as more self-centered (29 percent), decisive (28 percent), and stubborn (28 percent) though the vast majority says each of these traits equally applies to both.

“The endurance of gender trait stereotypes has consequences in the personal, professional, and political world,” said Ashley Koning, assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling (ECPIP) at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. “Perceiving differences in men’s and women’s capabilities and personalities can impact everything from interpersonal interactions and household duties to hiring practices and wages to who we elect to public office.”

In this poll, 1,250 adults were contacted between March 7 and 22, 2019. Of those, 621 of were contacted by live callers on landlines and cell phones, and 629 were reached through an online probability-based panel. The combined sample has a margin of error of +/-3.6 percentage points; the phone sample has a margin of error of +/-4.5 percentage points, and the online probability-base sample has a margin of error of +/-5.5 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish. The full analysis, along with the poll’s questions and tables, can be found on the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll website and the FDU Poll website.

Gender makes a difference

Male and female residents do not see eye to eye on certain traits, with their views at times separated by double digits. For example, respondents believe their own gender is more aware and more logical or rational by wide margins – though a majority of each says there is no difference between genders on each trait.

Female residents are more likely to believe women are more capable managers (23 percent say women, 7 percent say men), whereas male residents are more split between the two genders (10 percent versus 11 percent). The opposite is true of decisiveness: male residents are three times as likely to choose their own kind (10 percent say women, 33 percent say men) while female residents are more split (22 percent versus 23 percent). Nevertheless, a majority of male and female residents alike say there is no gender difference on either trait.

Male residents are much more likely to apply the trait of risk-taking to themselves (60 percent), while female residents are more split between whether it applies just to men (42 percent) or whether there is no difference at all (47 percent). Female residents are twice as likely as male residents to say that women are better multi-taskers (62 percent versus 29 percent), whereas male residents are more likely to apply the trait to both genders (59 percent).

Male and female residents alike agree in similar numbers that women are more compassionate, ethical or moral, and emotional; though to different degrees, both genders also perceive women as better listeners. Male and female residents agree – though to differing extents – that men are more aggressive: 62 percent of male residents say men are, and 50 percent of female residents say the same.

Variation between phone and online surveys

Some respondents in this sample were given the survey questions online, while others were asked these same questions by live interviewers via telephone. The online and telephone subsamples resembled one another and the general population in every other way except the way in which the interviews were conducted. The presence or absence of conversing with a live interviewer had an effect on how respondents answered a number of traits.

Online respondents are more likely than phone respondents to believe there is no difference between the genders when it comes to manipulation (64 percent to 55 percent), risk-taking (47 percent to 35 percent), logic (64 percent to 47 percent), “people” skills (64 percent to 55 percent), ethics (72 percent to 62 percent), management capabilities (81 percent to 65 percent), decisiveness (62 percent to 48 percent), listening skills (43 percent to 31 percent), stubbornness (61 percent to 49 percent), multi-tasking (52 percent to 37 percent), and self-centeredness (60 percent to 52 percent).

Online respondents were slightly more likely than phone respondents to perceive men as more aggressive (58 percent versus 53 percent) but also a few points more likely to say there is no difference between the genders (39 percent versus 36 percent). Online respondents are also are somewhat more likely than their counterparts to say that there is no difference between genders when it comes to being emotional (37 percent to 32 percent), though a solid majority of both types of respondents mostly attribute this trait to women.

“Survey respondents sometimes express attitudes that are not reflective of their true beliefs when talking to a live interviewer in order to seem socially acceptable, especially when it comes to gender-related issues,” noted Koning. “When applying various gender traits, phone participants seemingly conformed more to expected gender stereotypes, while online respondents felt more comfortable to express gender-neutral opinions.”

The more things change, the more they stay the same?

Most trait perceptions have shifted toward a more neutral zone since these questions were last asked almost two decades ago. New Jerseyans are now less likely to perceive women as manipulative, logical, better at “people” skills, ethical, better at listening, or intelligent by double digits, instead more likely to say there is no difference between the genders; likewise, the percentage who associate men with each of these characteristics has slightly increased over time. A similar pattern emerges when it comes to compassion and emotion, though solid majorities still view these traits as most appropriate for women, just to a slightly lesser extent than they did in 2003.

Associating management capabilities, multi-tasking, and decisiveness with either gender has declined since 2003, with more residents now saying these traits can be applied to both men and women equally. Similar patterns occur regarding awareness, self-centeredness, and stubbornness.

Men are still more likely to be perceived as aggressive and risk-takers, but even these numbers have softened a bit nowadays, with both traits now showcasing a bare majority in favor of men and a double-digit increase for no difference.

“A lot has changed in the past sixteen years,” said Jenkins, who conducted the original Rutgers-Eagleton gender trait study with then-ECPIP director Cliff Zukin. “Many New Jerseyans seem to have moved beyond stereotypical thinking about gender traits, though some stereotypes still linger – even if to a lesser extent.”

The Importance of Masculinity and Femininity

Women and men were also asked how important it was to them, personally, to be seen by others as womanly or feminine or as manly or masculine, respectively. Majorities of both genders say such perceptions are “not too important” or “not at important at all” – 56 percent among women and 65 percent among men.

More than four in ten women place some importance on femininity: 14 percent say it is “very important” to them to be perceived that way, and another 30 percent say it is “somewhat important.” Men are less likely to be concerned with being seen as masculine: just 5 percent say it is “very important” to them, and 30 percent say “somewhat important.”

Online respondents are slightly more concerned with gendered perceptions of themselves than phone respondents.

“The importance one places on their own femininity or masculinity undoubtedly influences how they associate various traits with each gender,” noted Jenkins. “As personal importance to be seen as feminine or masculine grows, so does the likelihood of applying certain traits to one gender or the other instead of expressing more gender-neutral views.”

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