The Third Stage of Feminism
Gloria Who?

In May, Yankelovich Partners conducted an extensive poll for the recent Time cover story "Is Feminism Dead?" One question asked about Gloria Steinem. Among women, 24 percent had a favorable opinion of her and 15 percent an unfavorable one. But a striking 56 percent of women said they were not familiar with her.

Perhaps more surprising, 50 percent of self-described feminists in the survey were not familiar with Steinem. Of the feminists who recognized her name, 38 percent had a favorable opinion, and 8 percent, an unfavorable one.

Age Is Just a Number

The Yankelovich Partners/Time/CNN poll found that 26 percent of women said they considered themselves feminists, while 65 percent said they did not. There were hardly any differences by age. Twenty-seven percent of women ages 18 to 34, 24 percent of those 35 to 49, 27 percent of the 50- to 64-year-old group and 27 percent of women 65 or older considered themselves feminists.

On Abortion

When Yankelovich Partners asked women whether they considered themselves more "pro-choice--that is supporting a woman's right to have an abortion, or more pro-life--protecting the rights of unborn children," women split 44 percent pro-choice, and 45 percent pro-life.

Sixty percent of self-identified feminists in the poll described themselves as pro-choice, but even among this group, nearly a third (31 percent) described themselves as pro-life.

Fifty-four percent of women in the poll favored "the Supreme Court ruling that women have the right to have an abortion during the first three months of pregnancy," and 42 percent opposed it. Among feminists, 70 percent favored the ruling, but 28 percent did not.

Smoking Out Public Opinion on Tobacco Vote

Three highly respected national polls conducted at about the same time give different impressions of public opinion on the demise of the tobacco legislation in the Senate. All show that how--and how much--information is presented to respondents can affect responses.

In the ABC News poll, taken June 18, respondents were told that "the US Senate has killed a plan that would have raised taxes on cigarettes and put new restrictions on the tobacco industry. Supporters said the law would reduce smoking by teenagers, protecting health and reducing medical costs. Opponents said it went too far in raising taxes on cigarettes and expanding government programs." Forty-seven percent said the Senate did the right thing in killing the bill, and 46 percent said the Senate should have approved it.

In its June 18 to 21 poll, NBC News/Wall Street Journal interviewers gave respondents more information and got a different result. "As you may know, the Senate recently defeated a bill that would impose an additional $1.10 per pack tax on cigarettes, restrict the advertising and marketing of cigarettes, and use the extra revenue to pay for children's health care programs or tax cuts." Fifty-six percent said the Senate should have passed the legislation, but 39 percent disagreed.

In its June 22 and 23 poll for CNN and USA Today, Gallup used a straightforward approach: "As you may know, last week the US Senate defeated the tobacco bill it had been considering. Do you personally feel the Senate should or should not have passed the tobacco bill?" Thirty-six percent said the Senate should have passed it, 44 percent said the Senate should not have passed it and 15 percent said they were not familiar with it.

In all three surveys, majorities (60 percent in the ABC poll, 52 percent in the NBC News/WSJ one and 78 percent in the Gallup poll) said the issue would not influence their vote in November.

Twinkle, Twinkle Counsel Starr

In its June 22 and 23 poll, Gallup asked a single general question about independent counsel Kenneth Starr. Thirty-nine percent said that Attorney General Janet Reno should fire Starr and appoint another independent counsel, and 49 percent said she should continue to allow Starr to continue his investigations.

The June NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll asked nine questions about the Clinton investigations. The interviewers began by asking whether people approved or disapproved of President Clinton's decision not to testify in the Monica Lewinsky investigation (50 percent approved, 42 percent disapproved.)

The next question found that 54 percent felt the investigation had not distracted the President from his duties (41 percent said it had).

In the third question, 55 percent said Starr was responsible for the length of time the investigation was taking because he had expanded the original investigation to include the President's personal life (32 percent said the President was responsible for deliberately holding back information).

Two hypothetical questions about impeachment followed, and then people were asked how much confidence they had that Starr's report would be fair and impartial. Americans were evenly split on the next question about whether Lewinsky should be indicted if she refused to cooperate. Eighty-three percent then told interviewers they were tired of hearing about the investigations. Just 14 percent said that they continue to be interested.

The final question asked people which statement they agreed with more: "The press reports and critics say that Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr has leaked secret Grand Jury evidence to the press and should be fired" or "Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr says that what he did was appropriate and no action should be taken." Forty-nine percent said he should be fired and 35 percent said that he was acting appropriately.

Secret Service Should Keep Secrets

Forty-three percent in the February Gallup/CNN/USA Today poll said that it was appropriate that "Secret Service agents who worked directly with President Clinton have been called as witnesses to testify about matters related to the president," and 53 percent said this was inappropriate.

In the February/March NBC News/WSJ poll, 28 percent said that Secret Service agents assigned to protect the President "should be forced to testify under oath about President Clinton's personal life," but 68 percent said that they should not be.

Karlyn H. Bowman is a resident fellow at AEI.

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About the Author


  • Karlyn Bowman compiles and analyzes American public opinion using available polling data on a variety of subjects, including the economy, taxes, the state of workers in America, environment and global warming, attitudes about homosexuality and gay marriage, NAFTA and free trade, the war in Iraq, and women's attitudes. In addition, Ms. Bowman has studied and spoken about the evolution of American politics because of key demographic and geographic changes. She has often lectured on the role of think tanks in the United States and writes a weekly column for
  • Phone: 2028625910
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    Name: Andrew Rugg
    Phone: 2028625917

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Graduation day: How dads’ involvement impacts higher education success

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