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Millennial Women, More Than Older Women, Think Men Have It Easier

When it comes to the gender divide, Americans are, well, divided. A survey out Wednesday shows wide divergences along partisan, educational and generational lines in perceptions of how women are doing in the country.

Pew Research Center asked more than 4,500 respondents about efforts in the U.S. toward gender equality.1 While 82 percent of all American adults say it’s very important for women to have equal rights, Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say enough progress has been made to reach equality, though Democrats themselves are split on the issue depending on their level of education. Among different generations, millennial women are significantly more likely than others to say men have greater advantages than women.

Pew asked two key questions to gather a sense of how Americans feel about gender equality in the U.S: Has the country gone far enough in giving women equal rights, and do men or women have it easier these days? Although half of all respondents said the U.S. hasn’t done enough when it comes to equality, the perception fractures along party lines.

A majority of Democrats (69 percent) expressed dissatisfaction with the progress the U.S. has made toward equality, while only 26 percent of Republicans felt the same way, and 54 percent of Republicans said the country’s progress has been about right. Only 10 percent of all Americans said the country has actually gone too far in giving women equal rights. But 18 percent of Republican respondents said the U.S. has gone too far, while 4 percent of Democrats said the same. Women in both parties were more likely than men to say enough hasn’t been done, but only a small share of Republican women (33 percent) thought this was the case, compared with 74 percent of Democratic women.

Only 35 percent of all respondents thought men have it easier than women, and the majority (56 percent) believed there was no difference between men and women. But again partisan divides emerged, with 49 percent of Democrats saying men have it easier than women compared with 19 percent of Republicans. Sixty-eight percent of Republicans and 45 percent of Democrats believed that there’s no difference between the genders.

Another notable divide is found among those who say they’ve experienced discrimination or unequal treatment because of their gender. Forty-three percent of all women said they’ve encountered discrimination, with 51 percent of Democratic women saying they’ve faced discrimination and 34 percent of Republican women saying the same. Of the 18 percent of men who said they’ve encountered gender discrimination, Republicans outnumbered Democrats 20 percent to 14 percent.

Although Democrats are more likely to say there hasn’t been enough movement toward gender equality, a significant gap occurs within the party based on education. A strong majority (81 percent) of Democrats holding a bachelor’s degree or higher believed the country hasn’t done enough to help women achieve equality; a little over half (55 percent) of those with a high school education or less said the same. This divide intensifies when respondents are asked if men have more advantages than women. Only 27 percent of Democrats with a high school degree or less said men have it easier, while 69 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree or higher said the same.

Among Republican respondents, views were consistent through all three education levels on both questions.

According to Pew’s research, younger women are more likely to describe men as having advantages over women. Fifty-two percent of millennial women said men have it easier than women in the U.S. today, while majorities of women in all other generations said there was no difference between the genders. On the question of whether women have benefited from changes in gender roles, more millennial men (61 percent) said women have benefited from these changes than did women (48 percent), but this gap in men’s and women’s perception doesn’t exist among older generations.

Millennial women were also more likely to say they had faced gender discrimination, at 52 percent, compared with 43 percent of all women. Among the group of women who said they’ve experienced discrimination due to gender, most pointed to experiences in the workplace, with 38 percent referring to discrimination in hiring or pay.2 Twenty-six percent said they were treated as though their opinions weren’t important, and 10 percent mentioned sexual harassment or cat-calling. Boomer women, however, were more likely to have said they experienced workplace discrimination than millennials by a 51 to 26 percent margin.

Additional research from Pew this month shows similar significant partisan gaps on other issues, from racial discrimination to immigration. On gender equality, the country seems just as divided.

CORRECTION (Oct. 18, 2017, 5:30 p.m.): An earlier version of this story mischaracterized the generational divide on gender discrimination. Millennial women were less likely than older generations to report gender discrimination specifically in the workplace but more likely to report gender discrimination overall.


  1. Respondents were surveyed between Aug. 8 and Sept. 28, 2017. The margin of error was 2.4 percentage points.

  2. This section of the poll allowed multiple responses.

Kathryn Casteel is a former FiveThirtyEight staffer who wrote about economics and policy issues.