Effect of Women’s Self-Esteem on Voting for Trump
- 1 The Effect of Women’s Self-Esteem on Voting for Donald Trump
- 2 Introduction:
- 3 Literature Review
- 4 Existing Research on Variables that Drove Women to Vote for Trump
- 5 The Impact of Women’s Self Esteem on Other Variables
- 6 Works Cited
The Effect of Women’s Self-Esteem on Voting for Donald Trump
It is hard to get people to tell the truth about their political beliefs, especially if they hold the fear of being judged. I have noticed both on and off William & Mary campus that people, women especially, are hesitant to say they voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential Election. While there are many potential reasons for this, the various sexual assault allegations and clear disrespect and aggression toward women during his campaign could be among them.
When asked, fellow students have said they would prefer not to share their voting behavior because they fear being judged anti-feminist, or being told they are reinforcing social stereotypes of women. Given these quiet hesitations, I am curious to know a woman would have voted for Trump. There are the obvious reasons; maybe they liked his views on social or economic issues, or perhaps the mistrust of Hillary Clinton throughout the email scandal held too much priority in their eyes. While these can be real and important factors in a voting decision, there must be more to the story.In this test, I attempt to uncover the less visible reasons. I believe that the personality of the individual has some underlying effect on their decision to vote for Trump. Specifically, the self-esteem of the individual. If carried out, this study would show the effects that the independent variable (self-esteem of women) has on the dependent variable (whether they voted for him). The hypothesis is to see if women with higher levels of self-esteem in the United States are less likely to have voted for Trump in the most recent Presidential Election, thus, would be showing a negative correlation.
Why it is Important: There are over 200 million registered voters in the United States, and probably as many reasons for choosing a specific candidate as there are voters. Humans are complex, and our decisions, while clear to us, do not always make the most sense to others. Women, along with all citizens, tend to vote based on ideology, party affiliation, and family voter history. (Scott 2018). However, it is not always so clear-cut. It is easy to make assumptions based on what we know about people and their values, but I believe there are many explanations as to why people vote the way they do, and this is crucial to unravel.Who Voted for Trump:It is important to first separate some of the general, large voting categories when thinking about who voted for Trump. Starting with gender, Trump won a majority of the male vote, with 52% (CNN Exit Polls 2016). When looking at his base in regard to age, Trump attracted the 40- year-old and older demographic, winning 52% of that vote (CNN Exit Polls 2016). Trump won the majority of white voters (57%)(CNN Exit Polls 2016), while Hillary Clinton won a strong majority of all minority races. When putting race and gender together, Trump was victorious both with white women and white men (CNN Exit Polls 2016).
Zeroing in on the specifics of the women more likely to have voted for Trump is another key component of this research. 38% percent of women who voted for Trump said that they were or would have the tendency to typically lean Republican (Scott 2018). 47% percent of this number were white women who identified as Republican (Scott 2018). Despite Trump’s various sexual assault allegations along with other questionable and offensive remarks about women, he still won the vote of 52% of voting-eligible white women (Scott 2018). When education is brought into the picture, more than 61% of white women without a college-level degree voted for Trump (Scott 2018). When asked what Trump voters hoped he would accomplish in office involving issues surrounding women’s rights, 77% of female Trump voters surveyed said that they hoped to see Trump and his administration advance equal rights for women (Young 2017). Yet, on this same topic, 39% of female Trump voters found Trump’s demeaning comments about women offensive and hurtful (Young 2017).
Existing Research on Variables that Drove Women to Vote for Trump
There are many reasons why women decided to vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Trump held positions on certain social issues that were drastically different from that of his opponent Hillary Clinton. For example, his positions on free markets, smaller government, and ending legal abortion were strongly supported by certain female voters (Scott 2018). Another significant reason women voted for Donald Trump was because of their displeasure with the status-quo (Young 2017). In one instance, Sally, a 62-year-old lawyer from the Northeast who identifies as politically independent voted for Trump reluctantly due to her displeasure with Obama’s previous policies regarding campus sexual assault (Young 2017). Sally and her son, along with many others, showed much concern about the 2011 federal guidelines that led colleges to obtain Title IX sex discrimination policies (Young 2017). Title IX makes it possible to punish accused students with less proof and without due process (Young 2017).
For women that have personal issues with this, like Sally and her son, this one prominent stance could be all it takes for Trump to win the vote. Along these lines, a lot of women saw Trump as breaking the mold. Some felt he, as a non-politician, would bring a new kind of leadership to the country. Others voted for Donald Trump because they felt the Democrats were increasingly leaning too far left (Young 2017). Some women were sick of the constant political correctness they felt the country was moving towards. Specifically, on campuses, some female college students were annoyed and angered by the constant PC language infiltrating the culture (Young 2017). This is part of the reason some females could shrug off Trump’s offensive comments — all the fuss felt like just another cry for political correctness. In a Washington Post article written a year and a half after the election, a-22-year old Trump supporter said that Trump’s degrading language toward women bothers me, and his views on global warming are a problem for me. I do not 100% love Trump, but I am convinced he can lead this nation. I was part of the silent majority, (Scott 2018). So, although a lot of the women who voted for Trump did not fully agree with everything he stood for, they were convinced he could lead the nation in ways that Clinton could not.
The Impact of Women’s Self Esteem on Other Variables
In our society, self-confidence has been and continues to be stereotyped as a masculine trait. While boys are expected to show their masculinity through self-confidence, self-confidence in women is still often experienced as aggressive or pushy, (Tannen 2016). As Deborah Tannen so perfectly pointed out, While the qualities expected of a good leader (be forceful, confident, and at times, angry) are similar to those we expect of a good man, they are the opposite of what we expect of a good woman (be gentle, self-deprecating and emotional, but not angry), (Tannen 2016). This is a lose-lose scenario for women — they are either seen as having a lack of confidence and incompetent or, on the flip side, as being too aggressive. We can see this starting from childhood. From as young as middle school, there are gender-segregated playgroups that enforce gender and conformity at a brutally young age (Kling, Hyde, Showers, Buswell 1999). Starting from a young age, girls have a hard time influencing boys and obtaining valuable resources when in unsupervised mixed-gender groups, (Kling et al., 1999, pg. 472).
This, consequently, can make girls feel less powerful and important at a young age, impacting their self-esteem and affecting the way they live their lives in later years. The self-esteem of women has a large effect on their ability to make decisions. One example of this is reflected in the way women behave professionally. This theory was presented by Gail Hackett and Nancy Betz. They found that, with work, women’s general lack of self-esteem leads them to underestimate their abilities and their worth, causing them to waste potential talent (Betz, Hackett 1981). This is especially prevalent when pursuing an interest in a potential career path — women often stop themselves from moving forward in a career strictly because of their lack of confidence. In large part, this behavior can be attributed to socialization (Betz, Hackett 1981). Socialization over time has led women to feel as though they need to respond to norms in stereotypical ways, restraining them from considering all possible career options, and limiting them to roles and careers that are seen as traditional (Betz, Hackett 1981). Because of this, women are still underrepresented in many careers, especially careers with higher paying salaries. This theory shows that there is a clear relationship between the career development of women, and their belief in their ability to succeed (Betz, Hackett 1981). Along with the idea of socialization comes stereotyping. Sex-roles and occupational stereotyping in the media are still prominent, serving as unintentional role models for young women in their formative years (Betz, Hackett 1981). While society is slowly moving away from these norms, it is still deeply rooted in our culture and affects the way women make career decisions.
One study done explored stability and levels of self-esteem as indicators and predictors of anger arousal and hostility (Kernis, Grannemann, Barclay 1989). Although at least some level of anger and hostility are to be expected by every individual at some point or another in their life, this study found a correlation between levels of self-esteem and frequent anger/hostility. The researchers gave their subjects many different pretest assessment surveys, testing their stableness, levels of self-esteem, and levels of anger and hostility (Kernis et al., 1989). They assessed levels of self-esteem by using Rosenberg’s Self-Esteem Scale, a very well known and validated measure of global self-testing. To test the level of stability, subjects were given Rosenberg’s Stability Scale. This is a 5-item scale, ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree, with the purpose of assessing phenomenal self-esteem stability, (Kernis et al., 1989). Some of the questions/statements include (Webster, Smith, Brunell, Paddock, Nezlek 2017) : Do you find that on one day you have one opinion of yourself and on another day you have a different opinion?I have noticed that my ideas about myself seem to change very quicklySome days I have a very good opinion of myself; other days I have a very poor opinion of myselfIt is important to take a closer look at the meaning of stability and instability in this assessment. If someone agrees or strongly agrees with the majority of statements such as these, they can be classified as unstable (Kernis, Grannemann, Barclay 1989). They do not have a steady, positive view of themselves at all times, for it can be easily changed (Kernis et al., 1989). Lastly, to assess levels of anger and hostility, subjects were given four different assessments: Novaco’s Anger Inventory, Trait Anger Scale, Buss-Durkee Hostility Inventory, and the Zelin Anger Self-Report Scale (Kernis et al., 1989).
For my test, I plan on operationalizing differences by associating instability with low self-esteem. The researchers of this study found that there was a much greater tendency of unstable high self-esteem individuals to experience anger (Kernis et al., 1989). An unstable high self-esteem individual can have the appearance of seeming confident with themselves but are putting up a front to hide their insecure and sensitive selves (Kernis et al., 1989). On the other hand, stable high self-esteem individuals, those who hold secure, positive, self-views, are less likely to be angry throughout their lives.
Women have consistently reported showing lower satisfaction with their appearance than men (Kling et al., 1999). Because women have been socialized by media to be harsh critics of their bodies, then it only makes sense they would not have the capability to expect the best treatment by others. This is shown especially in women with physical disabilities. Some studies have suggested that women with high levels of physical impairment are associated with having lower body and sexual self-esteem (Hassouneh-Phillips, McNeff 2005).
Specifically, with regards to women with physical disabilities, body esteem is a crucial factor in their overall mental health and self-esteem (Hassouneh-Phillips, McNeff 2005). Dena Hassouneh-Phillips and Elizabeth McNeff completed a qualitative study regarding the abuse of women with physical disabilities. Seventy-two individual interviews were completed, and each woman had at most 3 interviews. The results of the study suggested that women with high degrees of physical impairment are more likely to feel inadequate and unappealing than those with mild to no physical impairment (Hassouneh-Phillips, McNeff 2005). As a result of low self-esteem and negative self-perceptions, women with these disabilities are more susceptible to getting into and remaining in an abusive relationship (Hassouneh-Phillips, McNeff 2005). Because of the circumstances these women find themselves in, they often times have lower levels of self-esteem, causing them to lack the ability to stand up for themselves in a toxic relationship. Women with physical disabilities are especially vulnerable individuals, as shown by the high rates of abuse and victimization.
Lastly, there was a study done on adolescent self-esteem and the effect that low self-esteem has on mental and physical health, as well as adult criminal convictions. After the study was completed, the results were astounding. Starting with the effects of low self-esteem on mental health, researchers found that adolescents with low self-esteem were to have more mental health issues in adulthood than those with high self-esteem (Trzesniewski et al., 2006). Specifically, after all of the studies and reports were completed, they found that adolescents with low-self esteem were 1.26 times more likely to develop major depression, 1.60 times more likely to develop an anxiety disorder, and 1.32 times more likely to be dependent on tobacco in later years (Trzesniewski et al., 2006). Many potential lurking variables were controlled for in this study, some of which include the increased risk of gender and adolescent depression (Trzesniewski et al., 2006). The study also found that adolescents with low self-esteem were more likely than those who grew up with high self-esteem to have physical impairments, such as poor cardiovascular health (Trzesniewski et al., 2006). Finally, adolescents with lower levels of self-esteem were found to be 1.32 times more likely to get in trouble for any type of crime in their adulthood, and 1.48 times more likely to be found guilty of committing a violent crime (Trzesniewski et al., 2006).
My Expectation (Hypothesis) and Why (Theory):I expect that women with higher levels of self-esteem would have been less likely to vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. As women, it is confusing and difficult to understand why one would vote for a presidential candidate who objectifies and is demeaning toward women. However, there must have been something about those individuals that made them vote the way they did. I believe a big factor in their decision stems from personality traits, specifically self-esteem. Many studies cited above show the strong effect that identity and self-esteem had on all aspects of a woman’s life — whether that be as big a decision involving their career, or simply their mood on a given day. It is my intention to test if self-esteem has as big of an impact on voting as it does these other factors.
Carrying It Out: To measure the impact that varying levels of self-esteem have on women’s decision to vote or not vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, I will be conducting a survey. I will use a random stratified sample of 2500 women in the United States, regardless of party affiliation, race, and other demographics. It is important to note that because the sample used will be random and stratified, all potential differences between women coming into the study will not be controlled for. I decided to limit my sample population to women because, as noted above, they are already predisposed to low self-esteem. The study will be carried out as follows: Individual women will come in and sit at desktops, unable to see or talk to anyone around them. When they begin the survey, they will be asked a standard battery of controls that are commonly seen throughout many surveys. This information will mostly be demographic, including questions regarding their age, race, religion, income, a region of the country they live in, and party affiliation (Greenwald, Farnham 2000). I plan on making these questions self-descriptive so that subjects feel comfortable giving their most honest response, while also making sure I leave no room for exclusion (Greenwald, Farnham 2000). By doing this, I avoid the potential to receive skewed responses later in my survey. Getting this basic information out of the way also helps to eliminate the possibility of potential lurking variables.
Next, the subjects will be taken to the heart of the survey (of course, they will not know this). The first questionnaire they will be given is the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale. This scale has been widely used in many psychological studies and is validated by researchers across the board. It is conducted on a 1-5 point scale, with 1 = strongly agree, 2 = agree, 3= neutral, 4= disagree and 5 = strongly disagree. Below are some of the statements I plan on putting in my survey (Rosenberg 1989):On the whole, I am satisfied with myselfI feel that I am a person of worth, at least on an equal basis with othersI feel that I have a number of good qualitiesI am able to do things as well as most other peopleI take a positive attitude towards myselfWhile most, if not all, of these statements lean toward the positive side, it is important to receive responses of individuals when thinking about themselves in a negative light. Below are those statements (Rosenberg 1989):All in all, I am inclined to feel that I am a failureI feel I do not have much to be proud ofI certainly feel useless at timesAt times I think I am no good at allI wish I could have more respect for myselfIt is crucial to place these statements in a random order (with positive and negative statements varying), while also changing the order for each individual who takes the survey. This way, the choice order effect and the question order effect can be avoided.
On the next page, I will include items from the Global Self-Worth Subscale of Harter’s Self-Perception Profile for Children (SPPC). Although a child is not of voting age and will not be included in my sample population, I found that some of these statements can be carried over from childhood to adulthood. They include (Kling et al., 1999):The extent to which the respondents feel they are happy with the way they areIf the respondents are pleased with the way they are living their lifeWhile the questions from the Self-Esteem Scale dive into specific traits and insecurities, these two statements above bring the subject back into a macro level, broad thinking.
While all the above are attempts to measure everything related to my independent variable, levels of self-esteem in women, I have not yet measured my dependent variable, whether or not they voted for Trump. This comes last. After all of my self-esteem related questions are answered, I will bring the subject back to where they started — with seemingly innocent, generic, demographic questions. Little does the subject know, however, that I am now testing one of the most important aspects of my hypothesis, my dependent variable. As of now, I do not know how they voted in the election. First I will ask Did you vote in the 2016 presidential election? If they respond yes, they will be moved to another page where it asks What presidential candidate did you vote for? The options will be: Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Gary Johnson. There will also be a blank space provided that says Other, giving subjects the opportunity to type in another candidate if they so choose. My hope is that subjects will be less suspicious if I ask these questions at the end.
To control for potential lurking variables stated at the beginning of the literature review, I would use the appropriate statistical mean.
- CNN Exit Polls. (2017, November/December). CNN Politics. Cable News Network. Retrieved November, 2017, from https://www.cnn.com/election/2016/results/exit-polls
- Greenwald, A. Farnham, S. (2000, December). Using the Implicit Association Test to Measure Self-Esteem and Self-Concept. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (pg 1022-1038). Volume 76. Issue 6.
- Hackett, G. Betz, N. (1981, June). A Self-Efficacy Approach to the Career Development of Women. Journal of Vocational Behavior (pg. 326-339). Volume 18. Issue 3.
- Hassouneh-Phillips, D. McNeff, E. (2005, December). I Thought I was Less Worthy: Low Sexual and Body Esteem and Increased Vulnerability to Intimate Partner Abuse in Women with Physical Disabilities. Sexuality and Disability (pg. 23-227). Springer US. Volume 23. Issue 4.
- Kernis, M. H., Grannemann, B. D., & Barclay, L. C. (1989). Stability and Level of Self-Esteem as Predictors of Anger Arousal and Hostility. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (pg 1013-1022). Volume 56. Issue 6.
- Kling, K. C., Hyde, J. S., Showers, C. J., & Buswell, B. N. (1999, July). Gender Differences in Self-Esteem: A Meta-Analysis. Psychological Bulletin (pg. 470-500). Volume 125. Issue 4.
- Rosenberg, M. (1989). Self-Esteem Scale. Society and Adolescent Self Image (pg. 325-327). Wesleyan University Press.
- Scott, E. (2018, January 22). Analysis | White Women Helped Elect Trump. Now he’s Losing Their Support. WP Company. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2018/01/22/white-women-helped-elect-trump-now-hes-losing-their-support/?utm_term=.ada00fcd2002
- Tannen, D. (2016, February 19). Our Impossible Expectations of Hillary Clinton and All Women in Authority. WP Company. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/our-impossible-expectations-of-hillary-clinton-and-all-women-in-authority/2016/02/19/35e416d0-d5ba-11e5-be55-2cc3c1e4b76b_story.html?utm_term=.da2e4651793d
- Trzesniewski, K. Moffitt, T. Poulton, R. Donnellan, M. Robins, R. Caspi, A. (2006). Low Self-Esteem During Adolescence Predicts Poor Health, Criminal Behavior, and Limited Economic Prospects During Adulthood. Developmental Psychology (pg. 381-390). American Psychological Association. Volume 42. Issue 2.
- Webster, G. Smith, C. Brunell, A. Paddock, E. Nezlek, J. (2017, August). Can Rosenberg’s (1965) Stability of Self Scale Capture Within-Person Self-Esteem Variability? Meta-Analytic Validity and Test??“Retest Reliability. Journal of Research in Personality (pg. 156-159). Elsevier. Volume 69.
- Young, C. (2017, March/April). The Other Women’s Movement. (Cover story). Foreign Policy (pg. 26-35) Issue 223.
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