CNN Poll: Support for working women almost unanimous
April 16th, 2012
04:00 PM ET
10 years ago

CNN Poll: Support for working women almost unanimous

(CNN) – Amid the conversation that re-emerged last week surrounding the role of women in society after a controversial comment about Ann Romney, a new survey released Monday showed that most Americans now think the number of women in the workplace is a good thing for children of working mothers, a significant change from attitudes on that topic in the 1980s and 1990s.

The CNN/ORC International poll also indicated that nearly nine in ten Americans approve of mothers of young children working outside the home, even if their husbands can support their families. Six in ten women, including six in ten mothers of children under the age of 18, said they would prefer to have a job outside the home.

Full results (pdf)

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Hilary Rosen, a Democratic strategist and CNN contributor, ignited a firestorm when she questioned Ann Romney's validity in giving her husband, likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, advice on economic issues affecting women, given she had "never worked a day in her life."

An ensuing conversation about women in and out of the home occupied much of the political oxygen in the following days with both sides of the political aisle jockeying for the female vote.

But the new poll demonstrated a large gender gap is still prevalent between Romney and President Barack Obama, who was seen as more in touch with the problems facing women by a two-to-one margin. Women also favored Obama over Romney by 16 percentage points, virtually unchanged from the 18-point edge he held among women in March.

The survey released on Monday, based on interviews taken after Rosen made her comments, showed some Americans are still concerned about the impact working mothers might have on their children, but the level of concern has dropped significantly since the 1980s and 1990s.

In 1986, and again in 1995, only about a quarter said having a mother who worked was a good idea for children. Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed in both years thought it was a bad idea for children to have working mothers.

Although today only a third of those surveyed remained concerned about the effects on children, a 52% majority held a positive view of the impact working mothers have on their children.

The larger question of whether a married woman should work if her husband is able to support her – once an extremely controversial topic – appears to have settled by a nearly unanimous consensus.

In 1938, Gallup found that 78% of Americans opposed a wife working outside the home. That figure dropped in half by the 1970s, but in 1970, 36% still thought it was a bad idea. Even as late as 1997, 17% disagreed with the idea of a wife working outside the home.

Fast forward to 2012 and only 2% of those surveyed disapproved of a married woman working if her husband is capable of supporting her. Six in ten women said they would prefer to have a job outside the home than stay at home and take care of the house and family.

Roughly a third of women said they would prefer to stay at home and take care of their house and family rather than work outside the home.

When asked if men or women have it better in the U.S. currently, both genders agreed men have it better. Sixty-three percent of women said men have it better, while 49% of men agreed.

The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International between April 13 and April 15, with 1,015 adult Americans, including 910 registered voters, questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

- CNN's Gabriella Schwarz contributed to this report.

Filed under: CNN/ORC International poll • Polls
soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. kimberly

    Children do NOT need a mother at home with them after they start school. Your child is in school until 3 or 330 anyway, so the ONLY reason women stay home after their child is school age is because they are lazy! This is NOT 1990 or 1950 for that matter. Women who work show their children that women are strong, and able to raise a HEALTHY family, and have a career. PLEASE stop calling a Ann Romney a stay at home mom, her kids are all in thier 20's! Shes a kept woman!

    April 16, 2012 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  2. Another Day in the Idiot Mines

    The verdict is in: Rosen was right, and the Rmoneys have lost the argument. The GOBP's losing war on women, however, continues.

    April 16, 2012 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  3. Lynda/Minnesota

    Uh oh. Pitting women against each other probably isn't going to be a winning GOPer strategy. They just don't LISTEN, do they? GOPers, I mean.

    April 16, 2012 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  4. People call me "Willy"

    I'm gobsmacked that 'women in the workplace' is even a topic in the social sphere... of course its okay, of course most families need the support, of course kids will be okay. Did we suddenly pop back into the 1960s? As for Ann Romney... I'm amused by the so-called 'firestorm' over her status as a 'stay at home mom.' Being that her kids are all now grown and practically out of the Romney household...

    April 16, 2012 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  5. Mario

    Its SAD to here MITT and ANN ROMNEY say that all mothers are working mothers except MOTHERS ON WELFARE at his fund raising party in Florida the past weekend. These two people don't have a clue.

    April 16, 2012 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  6. Pete

    Ann Romney,Mormon mom of the year.She can give all women advise,what a hypocrite.She hasn't woke up before 9am in years,her help has her meals ready,what a life.Someone Googled they don't have maids,all I can say is BS to them for believing that crap...Multible cars,homes,kids ,which as ya know never served in the military,even thou he sounds like the war monger rep for the radical republican party.He's the man's man,old Mitt,he's the symbol of male superiority over women,Mormon or not every where....Please let me know when you republicans come up with someone who isn't so full of himself ,he's so plastic he looks like an outdated Barbee doll..I've seen stiffs in the morgue with more personality,BORING,only a man an ignorent Mormon wife could love.I wonder if they have matching his and hers tatoos.But let's talk shop,women really are appalled at the sight or sound of Romney,they recognise a phoney a mile away and women have that sense about them,they're uncomfortable around him and it shows.After this old boy ,you can go home and rest awhile ,your not wanted any more ,women have spoken.....

    April 16, 2012 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  7. Ray

    I can depend on FOX to skew things toward the right ,but CNN does not miss abeat by leaning left. This women and work thing is a red herring designed to keep the conversation away from the important issues. Does proving which work habits are best really overshadow a dismal economy and poor job prospects? C'mon CNN, and FOX,--direct the candidates to answer real issues,not this meaningless drivel.

    April 16, 2012 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  8. Upset Voter

    I hope they are not pointing at the youth as proof of that. Today's youth are the most out of control unruly bunch ever. They have no concept of a dollar or danger. They cross streets and stand in the middle of streets without any care that cars are bigger than they are. I see high school kids do not even know how to get to their home. This generation of kids are going to be the 1st generation to be worse off than their parents. They are totally unprepared for the harsher realities of the real world.

    Parents of today are a total failure. That is both the mothers and the fathers who feel that the school system is their to raise their kids. That is all the parents who do not realize that the dictionary contains a simple 2 letter word .... NO.

    I watch my sister and her husband allow her kids to stay home from school whenever they want. I watch them get new electronic gadgets and games when they should be punished by having privileges removed. I watch them go on monthly vacations that overlap into school days. I see many other parents just like this as well.

    As far as women in the work world ..... I don't see why not if they want to since they are just as capable. A long time ago 2 salaries were not necessary. It should always be a choice if not necessary but it is essential for both parents to work in a lot of families in order to survive.

    April 16, 2012 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  9. Larry L

    I've heard "home schooling" as an excuse for moms to stay home and teach their children – even throughout high school. My long experience in running an Army school for Soldiers just out of Basic Training left me with little respect for the process. Students were generally unable to focus on tasks and they had no concept of the consequences of failure due to poor performance. The failure rate was high in this population and disproportionate to those from traditional public schooling. I suspect the percentage of mom's actually trained as educators is relatively low and certainly few are certified across the many secondary school specialties. Many students appeared to from evangelical families seeking refuge from "liberal" ideology. Not always a good plan...

    April 16, 2012 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  10. Hoser

    Very sad to see the results of this survey. And people wonder why more and more families are disfunctional and more and more children are raised in broken homes. Having to work is one thing, but "choosing" to work over being at home for your children is completely different. The government trying to compensate for failure in the home is not sustainable.

    April 16, 2012 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  11. davis

    An available parent 24/7 is always a plus no minus

    April 16, 2012 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  12. dan5404

    It is a non-issue and the real reason for the gap is the difference between the policies of the GOP as compared to the Democrats. It has nothing to do with Rosen or Ann Romney, because she supports the draconian GOP policies, not women in general.

    April 16, 2012 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  13. Kimberly

    @hoser- you are SOOO wrong. Please please give me some statistics to back this cave man ideal you have! You make it sound as though working parents is the downgrade of America. SORRY, your 100% wrong! The problem is poor families, mothers that WONT work and use welfare to "get by" WHITE AND BLACK, and drugs! Working families, either one or two parent homes are NOT the problem!! shame on you!

    April 16, 2012 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  14. Upset Voter

    Larry L .... you are correct about the current group of home schooled children. Many were kept out for religious or political ideals and do not have a clue.

    Unfortunately as school budgets tighten the homeschooling is becoming mainstream. Many states and schools have online schools to solve financial issues and we will soon see a lot of children who have not had the advantages of traditional public schools. There are a lot of important things like how to work with others and cost of failure that this new group will not learn.

    April 16, 2012 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  15. dan5404

    Hoser, why do men have to be the ones that "choose" to work outside the home? Are they saying women can't choose to have a career, especially if she's more qualified for a good job than her husband? I'm a 72 year old white man and I'm all for it.

    April 16, 2012 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  16. mon

    I agree with Davis. There's never a downside to a fully available parent: be it the father or mother. I have nothing against two working parents, as was the case with my parents when I was young. But I believe if a couple has the financial means to provide comfortably on a single income that it would be a benefit to a child to have a full-time parent around, especially in the early years. I just don't think the pressure should necessarily be solely placed on the woman. I'm friends with a married couple where the wife made more money than her husband, so when they had a child he was a stay-at-home dad for the first few years.

    April 16, 2012 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  17. jon

    Maybe the ladies would like to weigh in...are you all 100% in the tank for Obama or do some of you actually think for yourselves? CNN has you all pegged as that true?

    April 16, 2012 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  18. The Situation

    What's so funny, the Repubs tried to pull this crap back in 1992 with Barbara Bush and Hilary Clinton. Mrs. Bush the stay at home mother and Mrs. Clinton the career oriented mother.

    April 16, 2012 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  19. Upset Voter

    Hoser ...

    I agree that there are many times the dysfunctional homes as there were in the past but I do not blame that on working parents. The cause is bad parents who do not realize the word NO is in the dictionary for a reason. These homes would still be dysfunctional if both parents were home.

    Still having 1 parent at home is always an advantage. I know many men who take care of the household while their wives pursue their carriers. Many of them gave up their own carrier so they could relocate for their wives carrier which was better than theirs.

    April 16, 2012 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  20. Obama

    Kids dont need their parents home with them after school. Cause Obama will give them free birth control. No need to worry

    April 16, 2012 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  21. GI Joe

    Ladies - vote while you can. The republicans want to take THAT right away from you too.

    April 16, 2012 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  22. GI Joe

    Romney will change his mind at least once before tomorrow, so don't get your panties in a wad. ha ha ha ha ha

    April 16, 2012 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  23. DENNA

    I have no quarrel with stay at home moms, but listen up ladies. YOU have all day to do what a working mom must schedule into her work day. No, we working moms are not greedy for things, we do not want to raise our children on welfare, which you would complain about too. So we work, then go home and help our children with homework, take them to activities, all the things you do, but with less leisure time. Shut up and enjoy your good fortune, If your marriage does not work out, you may find yourself joining us

    April 16, 2012 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |