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Gallup Vault
Gallup Vault: Breaking a Historic Gender Barrier
Gallup Vault

Gallup Vault: Breaking a Historic Gender Barrier

On July 7, 1981, President Ronald Reagan announced his nomination of Sandra Day O'Connor for the position of U.S. Supreme Court justice -- a landmark for women. A Gallup poll conducted 10 days later found 86% of Americans saying they approved of a woman serving on the high court.

Approval of a Woman Serving on U.S. Supreme Court
President Reagan has nominated a woman, Sandra Day O'Connor, to be an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Do you approve or disapprove of a woman serving on the Supreme Court?
  Jul 17-20, 1981
Approve 86
Disapprove 8
No opinion 6

Further, although 27% of Americans had no opinion about O'Connor's qualifications, almost everyone else -- 69% -- thought the Arizona Court of Appeals judge was "qualified to serve on the Supreme Court." Just 4% disagreed.

These reactions represented a revolution in attitudes toward women compared with what Gallup measured in 1938, days after President Franklin Roosevelt nominated his solicitor general -- Stanley Forman Reed -- for a high court vacancy. Only 37% of Americans then told Gallup they would favor the appointment of "a woman lawyer" to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1945, fewer than half (47%) said they would approve of having "a capable woman on the Supreme Court."

Thirty-five years after O'Connor earned the historic nomination that would make her the first woman on the Supreme Court -- or "FWOTSC," as she referred to herself -- and nearly a decade after members of the 110th Congress elected Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House in 2007, Hillary Clinton is in a position to break the ultimate glass ceiling for women, the one leading to the Oval Office. Since 2011, Gallup has consistently found more than nine in 10 Americans saying they would vote for a well-qualified woman for president.

These data can be found in Gallup Analytics.

Read more from the Gallup Vault.

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