Americans See Women as Emotional and Affectionate, Men As More Aggressive

by Frank Newport

Gender specific stereotypes persist in recent Gallup poll

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- A recent Gallup poll shows that Americans have little difficulty associating specific personality characteristics with one gender or the other -- despite the existence of at least some social pressures in today's society to view men and women equally. The poll gave Americans the opportunity to associate particular characteristics with either men or women, and the results show that even today Americans are likely to say that the words "emotional," "affectionate," "talkative," "patient" and "creative" describe women, while associating characteristics such as "aggressive" and "courageous" with men. Neither sex is most likely to be described by the terms "intelligent," "easy-going," and "ambitious."

Here is the basic summary of the results based on responses to the following question:I would like to ask about some specific characteristics of men and women. For each one I read, please tell me whether you think it is generally more true of men or more true of women.

The respondents were then read a list of 10 characteristics, with the following results:

SUMMARY OF CHARACTERISTICS OF MEN AND WOMEN

 

 

 

More true
of men

 

More true
of women


Advantage, men over women

       
 

%

%

%

Aggressive

68

20

+48

Courageous

50

27

+23

Ambitious

44

33

+11

Easy-going

45

38

+7

Intelligent

21

36

-15

Creative

15

65

-50

Patient

19

72

-53

Talkative

10

78

-68

Affectionate

5

86

-81

Emotional

3

90

-87



Characteristics strongly associated with women

Emotional +87% (gap in favor of women over men)

Affectionate +81%

Talkative +68%

Patient +53%

Creative +50%

Characteristics associated with men

Aggressive +48% (gap in favor of men over women)

Courageous +23%

Characteristics that are not strongly associated with either gender

Intelligent (tilts towards women, but with only a 15% gap)

Ambitious (tilts towards men, with a 11% gap)

Easy-going (slight tilt towards men, with a 7% gap)

One of the most interesting findings is the degree to which the public is willing to or able to ascribe the characteristics to a specific gender, rather than claiming that the term describes both equally. Those who volunteered that there was no difference between the genders were in the minority in all cases, and for only one adjective -- "intelligent" -- did more than a quarter of Americans volunteer that the dimension described both genders equally. (The question did not give the respondent a specific choice that encompassed the "no difference" alternative.)

Out of the 10 dimensions tested, on only three (ambitious, easy-going and intelligent) was the gap between the percentage choosing men and the percentage choosing women less than 20% points. On all others, there appeared to be a high degree of consensus that the personality trait described one of the sexes particularly well.

How Do Men and Women Differ in Their Views of the Genders and These Characteristics?
Women are somewhat more likely than men to say that the traits apply to their gender, and in fact say that only one trait – aggressive – is more applicable to men than women. . Men, on the other hand, are somewhat more likely to ascribe the traits to women, believing that five of those tested are more applicable to women than to their own gender.

Intelligence is the characteristic that both men and women are most likely to say applies equally to the two genders (40% of both genders say "intelligent" applies equally to men and women). There are significant differences, however, among those who do make a choice. Women tend to ascribe intelligence to women (more than to men), while men split evenly in ascribing the trait to the two genders. In a Gallup poll conducted in 1946, 40% of Americans said that men were more intelligent than women (compared to just 21% today), 21% said that women were more intelligent and 36% thought the sexes were equally intelligent.

Men are much more likely than are women to think of themselves as the more courageous sex -- 59% of men think they are more courageous than women, while only 16% say that women are more courageous. On the other hand, women are much more even-handed: 41% of women say that men have more courage while 37% say that the term "courageous" applies best to women. In 1950 Gallup asked Americans whether they thought men or women were more courageous. Interestingly, 35% of the public said men, 33% said women and 22% said the sexes were equally courageous. It is noteworthy that, 50 years later, the number of people who think men are more courageous than women has increased rather than decreased.

We observe a similar pattern with the characteristic "ambitious." A slight majority of men -- 52% -- think that they are the more ambitious group, while 28% choose women. Among women, there is a tie -- 37% of women say that the term fits women, and 37% of women say that the term fits men.

There are six dimensions on which a majority of both men and women agree, but the characteristic "aggressive" isthe only trait that both genders agree applies more to men than women. A majority of both men and women say that women are more emotional, talkative, patient, affectionate, and creative.

Another way of looking at these patterns:

  • Women
  • Agree that only one dimension on the list applies more to men than to women: aggressive
  • Believe that six of the dimensions apply more to women than men: emotional, talkative, creative, patient, affectionate, intelligent
  • Say that the two genders are equally courageous, ambitious, easy-going
  • Men
    • Believe that four dimensions apply more to men than to women: aggressive, courageous, and ambitious and easy-going
    • Agree that five of the dimensions apply more to women than men: emotional, talkative, patient, creative, and affectionate
    • Think that the two genders are equal on only one dimension: intelligent

Historical Trends
Gallup last asked this series in 1995. Those findings differed only slightly from the current ones in that more people volunteered that men and women were equally courageous, creative, ambitious, easy-going and affectionate.

Age Differences
Apparently, life experience leads people to have less strongly held gender stereotypes. Older Americans are generally more likely than younger ones to view the sexes as equal on most of these characteristics. Older people see fewer differences between the sexes in the categories of aggressive, emotional, talkative, patient and affectionate. On the other dimensions, intelligent, courageous, ambitious, easy-going, there is little systematic difference of opinion by age group. This finding is consistent with other gender-related survey data. Older people, for example, are also less likely to have a gender preference when they are asked whether they would rather have a boy or a girl.

Survey Methods

The results below are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,026 adults, 18 years and older, conducted December 2-4, 2000, For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

MEN ONLY

 

 

 

% saying "men"

 

 

% saying "women"

% saying "EQUALLY TRUE "

(vol)

% saying

"don't know"

 

 

Women minus men

           
 

%

%

%

%

%

Aggressive

73

17

10

*

-56

Emotional

4

90

5

1

86

Talkative

11

78

11

*

67

Intelligent

28

29

40

3

1

Courageous

59

16

23

2

-43

Patient

23

68

8

1

45

Creative

24

54

21

1

30

Ambitious

52

28

19

1

-24

Easy-going

50

35

14

1

-15

Affectionate

3

90

6

1

87



WOMEN ONLY

 

 

 

 

% saying "men"

 

 

 

% saying "women"

 

% saying "EQUALLY TRUE"

(vol)

 

% saying

"don't know"

 

 

Women minus men

           
 

%

%

%

%

%

Aggressive

62

23

13

2

-39

Emotional

2

90

7

1

88

Talkative

10

78

11

1

68

Intelligent

14

43

40

3

29

Courageous

41

37

20

2

-4

Patient

15

75

9

1

60

Creative

7

75

16

2

68

Ambitious

37

37

24

2

0

Easy-going

42

40

17

1

2

Affectionate

6

81

11

2

75

           


AGE GROUPS

(% saying "women"-% saying "men" only)

 

 

18-29

30-49

50-64

65+

         
 

%

%

%

%

Aggressive

-66

-57

-37

-20

Emotional

95

91

82

77

Talkative

74

67

66

60

Intelligent

19

15

17

13

Courageous

-27

-19

-25

-27

Patient

51

57

53

41

Creative

41

52

51

54

Ambitious

-6

-16

-23

6

Easy-going

-26

1

-1

-16

Affectionate

85

87

77

65



I would like to ask about some specific characteristics of men and women. For each one I read, please tell me whether you think it is generally more true of men or more true of women. First,[ROTATED]?

A. Aggressive

 

 

More true
of men

More true
of women

EQUALLY TRUE (vol.)

No
opinion

         

2000 Dec 2-4

68%

20

11

1

         

1995 Sep 14-17

74%

16

9

1



B. Emotional

 

 

More true
of men

More true
of women

EQUALLY TRUE (vol.)

No
opinion

         

2000 Dec 2-4

3%

90

6

1

         

1995 Sep 14-17

4%

88

7

1



C. Talkative

 

 

More true
of men

More true
of women

EQUALLY TRUE (vol.)

No
opinion

         

2000 Dec 2-4

10%

78

11

1

         

1995 Sep 14-17

10%

73

16

1



D. Intelligent

 

 

More true
of men

More true
of women

EQUALLY TRUE (vol.)

No
opinion

         

2000 Dec 2-4

21%

36

40

3

         

1995 Sep 14-17

14%

41

43

2



E. Courageous

 

 

More true
of men

More true
of women

EQUALLY TRUE (vol.)

No
opinion

         

2000 Dec 2-4

50%

27

21

2

         

1995 Sep 14-17

44%

22

33

1



F. Patient

 

 

More true
of men

More true
of women

EQUALLY TRUE (vol.)

No
opinion

         

2000 Dec 2-4

19%

72

8

1

         

1995 Sep 14-17

14%

75

10

1



G. Creative

 

 

More true
of men

More true
of women

EQUALLY TRUE (vol.)

No
opinion

         

2000 Dec 2-4

15%

65

19

1

         

1995 Sep 14-17

13%

53

33

1



H. Ambitious

 

 

More true
of men

More true
of women

EQUALLY TRUE (vol.)

No
opinion

         

2000 Dec 2-4

44%

33

22

1

         

1995 Sep 14-17

37%

26

36

1



I. Easy-going

 

 

More true
of men

More true
of women

EQUALLY TRUE (vol.)

No
opinion

         

2000 Dec 2-4

45%

38

16

1

         

1995 Sep 14-17

39%

36

24

1



J. Affectionate

 

 

More true
of men

More true
of women

EQUALLY TRUE (vol.)

No
opinion

         

2000 Dec 2-4

5%

86

8

1

         

1995 Sep 14-17

6%

76

17

1



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