At fivethirtyeight.com,* the spot-polling report is that women are more critical of McCain’s pick of Sarah Palin than men. This is no particular surprise to me. My experience in front of juries leads me to believe that women tend to be more critical of other women than they are of men. Similarly, men are more critical of other men than they are of women. I don’t think this is some bizarre perversion of feminism, because I think it does apply to men, too.
I believe I’ve set this theory out in these pages before. But I’ll do it again because I think this is particularly important to put this political datum in perspective.
My theory is that it has to do with identification and understanding of the other person’s role in a relationship; women understand how a woman fits into a particular situation (often much more awkwardly than we men appreciate until we really pause to think about it) and may not have the same visceral appreciation for how men fit into the situation. So too when the roles are reversed. In other words, it’s easier to visualize yourself in the role of another person when that person is your own gender. So when you hear a story about a man and a woman interacting in some way, you will tend to focus, perhaps subconsciously, on the person of your own gender. When that person deviates from the behavior that you would expect of yourself, you become critical.
The result has been that female jurors have told me that they were the ones to initiate criticism of female witnesses or parties, and the same for male jurors being critical of male protagonists in a trial. So I’m not surprised that female voters would look more critically at Sarah Palin than male voters. I’m reserving judgment for now; maybe if I were female I would be less inclined to do so. Of course, if I were a Democrat I would feel an impulse to be critical of the choice and that may be more important than gender for this particular choice. And then there is the issue of women being more likely to be Democrats than men — but Republican women are more critical of the choice than Republican men, too — although by a lower margin than women who self-identified as independents or Democrats. So this does seem to be a reflection of the criticize-your-own-gender phenomenon I’ve seen anecdotally in other contexts.
I’m curious if others who read this blog share that experience of people being more critical of members of their own gender than of the opposite gender — particularly, but not necessarily limited to, lawyers who have had to take matters to jury trials.
* If you’re looking for a place to stay up-to-date on Presidential and Senatorial campaign polling, this is the place to go. It’s appropriately-weighted and intelligently analyzed state-by-state polling data updated pretty much daily. With probability simulations wargamed for you daily, too. I don’t get paid for endorsements like this.