By Michaela Kilgallen and Jessica Chin
At the final presidential debate on Oct. 19, between accusations of corruption and international wrongdoing, one phrase made headlines — nasty woman. Republican candidate Donald Trump used the phrase to insult Hillary Clinton, but women across the country quickly adopted the title “nasty woman” as a way to combat sexism.
This reclaiming of negative rhetoric might speak to a larger trend according to a study conducted by Stony Brook University political professor John Ryan, which found hidden sexism will have little to no effect on Clinton’s chances at election.
“So while sexism may exist, it is overridden by stronger factors, most especially partisanship, which is the strongest variable in deciding the vote,” Elizabeth Connors, a Stony Brook University Political Science graduate student who researches the social influence on political values, said.
Ryan and Kent State University political science professor Ryan Claassen used two separate studies to determine whether hidden sexism would impact Clinton’s success at the polls. In both cases, partisanship overrode most negative feelings that might exist against a certain gender. Although the studies used respondents from all across the country, according to Ryan, Long Island does not differ.
“If we had just surveyed people on Long Island, then we would expect the results to be the same,” Ryan said. “… Especially Suffolk County is very similar to the rest of the country in terms of partisan makeup.”
In fact, other political science researchers have found that Clinton’s gender will help her more than hurt her.
“Hillary Clinton will most likely pick up support from both men and women with feminist beliefs,” Johanna Willmann, a Stony Brook University Political Science graduate student who researches voting behavior, said.
Although Ryan found no hidden sexism in the public’s perception of Clinton, that does not mean sexism does not exist in politics. In New York State, only 8 of the 27 congressional districts are represented by women. On Long Island, of the four Congressional Districts, only one is represented by a woman.
“Part of the challenge that has always happened for women in New York State is that you have a really strong and powerful Party system, where party leaders control who runs for open seats” Debbie Walsh, Director of the Center for American Women and Politics, said. “And, that always makes it harder for women or people of color, groups that are considered outsiders to break into politics.”
In Long Island’s first congressional district, Anna Throne-Holst is vying for Republican incumbent Lee Zeldin’s seat, which would make her the first woman elected to that position.
“I am encouraged to see that voters are rejecting institutional sexism in this election and are focusing on the priorities and visions each candidate has placed forward,” Throne-Holst said in an email statement. “If a voter feels as if my gender disqualifies me from serving or somehow limits my potential to serve in Congress, I will strive to work harder, exceed expectations, and earn the respect of their confidence.”