December 29th, 2008
12:03 PM ET
11 years ago

Poll: Gender gap over Caroline Kennedy’s Senate run


Women are more likely than men to see Caroline Kennedy as qualified to be New York's next senator, according to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released Monday. (Getty Images/File)

(CNN) - A new national poll suggests that men and women don't see eye to eye on the question of whether Caroline Kennedy is qualified to serve as a U.S. senator.

Just over half of all Americans questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Monday say that Kennedy is qualified to be a senator: 52 percent say she is, and 42 percent disagree.

Watch: 'Maybe that day is now,' Kennedy says of seeking political office

But the poll also indicates there's a gender gap, with 57 percent of women saying Kennedy is qualified. That number drops to 47 percent among men, with 46 percent of male respondents saying Kennedy is not qualified.

"Men may think of qualifications for public office in terms of work experience, while women may be looking at a candidate's life experience," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Caroline Kennedy has a personal history that may be compelling to many women, but her resume is not very long, and that may be a mark against her to some men."

Kennedy is one of the candidates hoping to replace Hillary Clinton as New York's junior senator if the secretary of state-designate is confirmed by the Senate as expected next month. New York State Gov. David Paterson, who has the sole responsibility to replace Clinton, has been the target of intense lobbying efforts by would-be senators in recent weeks. Whoever he picks would serve for two years before running in a special election in 2010. If the candidate won that contest, he or she would have to run again in 2012, when Clinton's current term ends.

Paterson is a Democrat, so there's no question that the seat will remain in in the party’s hands.

Kennedy, daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy and niece of longtime Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, has received the most media attention — and, since she's never run for or served in public office, the most scrutiny as well.

The new CNN/ORC poll suggests that the gender gap is not the only division among Americans when it comes to Kennedy - Americans are divided by party as well, says Holland, with 61 percent of Democrats and only 39 percent of Republicans calling her qualified.

When then-first lady Hillary Clinton initially considered a run for this Senate seat in 1999 — her first campaign for public office - 62 percent of all Americans thought she was qualified to be a senator. Clinton faced an even bigger gender gap, says Holland: 60 percent of men in 1999 thought she was qualified, and 77 percent of women felt the same way.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted December 19-21, with 1,013 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Filed under: Caroline Kennedy • CNN poll
soundoff (252 Responses)
  1. Dave, Illinois

    Only her name qualifies her. Of course, this is the same state that elected Clinton when she carpet-bagged herself into the Senate. Name recognition matters more than substance, I guess. Thats sad.

    December 29, 2008 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  2. dr.mimi de la cuz



    GO FIGURE !!!

    December 29, 2008 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  3. Ravi in MO

    The men should just be honest... it's pure misogyny! If Caroline had a Y chromosome, the boys would be overwhelmingly in support of her. I think she'll make a great senator, especially after selfish Hillary.

    December 29, 2008 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |



    December 29, 2008 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  5. a southern bell




    December 29, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  6. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    I wouldn't select a physician who has "interesting diverse life experience" over a boring one with much more solid medical and diagnostic skills, so why should a Senator be any different? I believe the gender difference reflects an incompetence in evaluating relevant attributes for the work at hand, preferring instead to focus on strictly irrelevant but "touchy-feely" distractions. What else is new?

    December 29, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  7. Richard Rohde

    You know. Sarah Palin as a Democrat. You know.

    December 29, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  8. New Yorker

    I wonder how many who think she is qualified know anything about her other than she is John F. Kennedy's daughter.

    December 29, 2008 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  9. Dj

    I don't understand how so many people were (and many still are) excited about that dumb chick from Alaska... and these same people are struggling with Ms. Kennedy who is a far superior candidate – in any race for any kind of leadership. This shows just how flickle and superficial American voters are.

    December 29, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  10. Spider

    Come on!!!

    Who needs experience to be a politician?

    We elected Barack Obama, didn't we?

    December 29, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  11. Lisa V

    Interesting. . . considering most men are gaga over Palin. We ol' gals know what men really see as "qualifications."

    December 29, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  12. jj

    Someone should not be considered for a job just because of their maiden name, who their father, brother, uncles, aunts are. That is about the lamest excuse there is to put someone in the senate. If this is what our country does, then it's no wonder we are in the mess we're in and BOY IS THAT OLD TIME POLITICS. Nepitisim to the fullest.

    December 29, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  13. Barack Obama

    Who needs experience?

    December 29, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  14. cc

    I don't think Caroline Kennedy should get the senate position because she is a Kennedy. A more experenice person should get the position and let her run and be elected if she wants the position. She is not qualified and I am a female.

    December 29, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  15. Angus McDugan

    The DNC has always been hard on women.

    December 29, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  16. Laura, Boston

    I am a woman and I agree with the men surveyed. Caroline Kennedy is the daughter of a popular president who was slain. The niece of a Senator running for president who was slain. The niece of a sitting Senator. How does that qualify her to be a Senator?

    She herself said she only got involved in Obama's campaign because her children prompted her to do so. She then saw in Obama what she thinks people saw in her father. I was myself only 6 so I really don't know if there are similiarities but again this isn't qualifications to become a senator.

    She cannot be compared to Hillary who frankly worked her butt off, running a great campaign and LEARNING the issues that New Yorkers were most affected by and doing everything she could to fix problems. I don't see that same drive in Ms. Kennedy.

    I would say that since she hasn't even voted consistantly over the years, politics (despite her background) didn't really mean a whole hill of bean to her. She was more the socialite type woman (like her mother).

    I suggest that if she is really interested in becoming a Senator she run in 2010.

    December 29, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  17. Art

    Has anyone set back and looked at Article 1, section 3 of the Constitution of the United States. It lays out the qualifications to be a Senator. Clause 3 of Section 3 states:

    "No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen."

    Based on the Constitution, she is qualified. Does being a Kennedy automatically make the seat hers? Some believe that it should and I don't agree with that. From what the medial has given me privledge to I think that Governor Patterson should take a long hard look at who's going to take the seat and not what is being pumped up by the media.

    She may be qualified to take the seat, as outlined by the Constitution, but that doesn't make her ready to take it by any means.

    December 29, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  18. Diane

    Caroline Kennedy is as qualified as any other first time candidate for senator. You have to start somewhere.

    December 29, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  19. Mesa

    She is not qualified. Plain and simple.

    December 29, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  20. Leslie

    What interests me about this poll is the fact that the ones we've elected aren't qualified to serve. Go figure.

    December 29, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  21. Leena

    Dr. Mimi don't believe everything you read. Of course 'life experience' doesn't make her qualified to be a Senator. 1/2 these polls are just to make people start talking about it.

    That said I need to do more research on her real work background before I say yes or no either way.

    I'm a liberal but I admit to being automatically turned off that she is a Kennedy and appears to have an entitlement attitude in interviews.

    December 29, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  22. Caroline Kennedy for NYS Senate

    Caroline Kennedy has ALL of the qualifications necessary to become NYS's next junior senator. She is a US citizen, she resides in NYS and she is over 30 years old. In addition, her public advocacy work shows us where she stands.

    As far as being able to effecitvely represent our state, and the other superflous stuff, there is no other person right now, including state AG Cuomo, who as the 100th senator, would be even close to being able to command as much attention and potentially get as much done for NY as Ms Kennedy. Yes, most of it would be because of name recognition, but if she gets the job done for NY, then who cares whether or not she's previously held public office.

    December 29, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  23. proudliberal-independent

    she would be great. public service is commendable for someone who really doesn't have to. and it's better than some crook , who'd probably rather 'pay to play'. i dont understand why anyone would want to serve this nation with all the hate going on. america is really starting to suck.

    December 29, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  24. Alan

    The headline overplays the story - Surprise! Surprise!

    There is a gender gap, but it is a minor one. 57% of women consider her qualified, 47% of men do too. Statistically this is a difference, but not an earthshaking one.

    Sometimes (oftimes?) the media goes too far in making the nation sound more divisive than it really is.

    December 29, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  25. Mike

    Guess that means that the minority of Americans possess higher intelligence than the majority, and the majority of that minority are men.

    December 29, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
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