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In Trump Era, Men Have Grown Far More Confident Than Women About The U.S. Future

A Trump supporter flexes his muscles with the words "Build The Wall" written on his biceps, as Trump speaks at a campaign rally last year.
Elise Amendola
A Trump supporter flexes his muscles with the words "Build The Wall" written on his biceps, as Trump speaks at a campaign rally last year.

Over the last two years, a gender divide has opened up in the U.S. Suddenly, men are far more optimistic about the nation's future than women.

Around half of American men now have "quite a lot" of confidence in the U.S.'s future, according to numbers highlighted by the Pew Research Center this week. Only 29 percent of American women say the same. That divide has widened considerably in just two years. As of 2015, men and women were almost identical in having that amount of confidence. (The data come from surveys performed from April 7 to 11, meaning there could have been some further shifting by now.)

This kind of confidence in the nation's future can be tied to many factors. It's hard to see this trend outside the lens of the Trump presidency, the biggest U.S. news story of the last two years — and most definitely a story with heavy weight on the future of the country.

(And economic indicators don't suggest that life has grown worse for American women as a group over that period — women's unemployment, like men's, has fallen in the last two years, and wages have risen for both women and men — though, of course, women still earn less than men.)

It's easy to see why some women, and Democratic women in particular, might be more worried about the nation than two years ago. Many women were outraged that the U.S. elected someone who once bragged — while microphoned, it turned out — about groping women. Some Clinton supporters were also devastated to see the first woman major-party candidate for president lose. And Trump's approval rating among women, as Pew pointed out, is far lower than it is among men.

But then, if that is indeed what brought Democratic women down (and, to be clear, that's an if), that raises a question about Democratic men. It would mean that those things left Democratic men significantly less troubled than their women peers.

Indeed, it's not enough to focus on women — as if somehow, something strange happened to their opinions in particular.

Republican and Republican-leaning men in particular might be the most interesting group here. Out of these four groups, GOP men are the only ones among whom a majority (and a large majority, at that) are confident about the nation's future.

Yes, Republican women's confidence may have increased since 2015, but only modestly, to 44 percent.

And for comparison: even in 2015, when Obama was in office, Democratic men and women weren't nearly as optimistic about the future as Republican men are now.

So what has made them so excited? Yes, their party's candidate won, but once again, Republican women didn't get nearly as excited as GOP men.

To the extent that any of these trends have to do with President Trump, this particular trend may have at least something to do with the macho persona that Trump created for himself.

Trump was the candidate of masculinity. By lambasting "political correctness" — "All of the men, we're petrified to speak to women anymore, we may raise our voice, you know what, the women get it better than we do, folks, they get it better than we do," he told one crowd — Trump appealed to men who felt that they had somehow been left out of the national conversation. And in the end, the 2016 election featured the largest gender gap since at least the 1950s.

Now that a candidate who appealed to many aggrieved men has won, that may feel like a vindication for those men who supported him.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.
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