It’s better to be a man than a woman, Californians say in new survey

A women's suffrage parade is shown here in an undated photo.
A women's suffrage parade is shown here in an undated photo. AP

Most Californians think women still trail men when it comes to equality of the sexes, adding to their perception that it’s a better time to be a man than a woman in today’s America, a new survey concludes.

Sixty-four percent of Californians canvassed in a statewide survey commissioned by the Blue Shield of California Foundation said women still haven’t achieved full equality in work, life and politics.

Nearly 70 percent of women surveyed said they felt they still lacked parity with their male counterparts, and 75 percent of all respondents said they believe men still hold more positions of power in society.

Researchers used focus groups in Fremont and Los Angeles that included African-Americans, Chinese, Korean, Muslim, Native American and Latina women, as well as a separate statewide survey of 1,045 California adult men and women in July. The margin of error was 3.8 percentage points.

The survey also found that most respondents – nearly 70 percent – said it was a good or very good time to be a man, but only 53 percent thought the same for women.

Race played a role in peoples’ attitudes. While 76 percent of those surveyed thought it was a good time to be a white man, only 39 percent thought it was a good time to be a black man, and 37 percent said the same for being a Latino man. Being an immigrant of either sex was seen as the toughest demographic to be a part of in today’s America, with just 26 percent of respondents saying it was a good time to be an immigrant.

But men didn’t report that their lives were easy. Four in 10 Golden State males said they felt pressured to be “aggressively competitive,” bury their emotions and “be more physically muscular and strong.”

Forty-five percent of the Latino men surveyed and 32 percent of white men said they had felt pressure or encouragement to “dominate or be in charge of others.”

Survey respondents also said that despite retaining clout in the public sphere, men were less powerful in their own homes. Fifty-four percent of respondents said they agreed that men had “lost some control and power in the home.” Latino men felt even more strongly that the dynamics of the domestic sphere were tilting away from their regulation – 57 percent of Latino men agreed their clout was on the wane with intimate partners, a sentiment echoed by 59 percent of Latinas.

That changing household dynamic showed up clearly in how both genders felt about their personal relationships. Seventy-one percent of respondents agreed that “women are gaining equality in relationships.”

The report looked only at heterosexual relationships.

The findings on gender equality were part of a broader look at attitudes about domestic violence.

Domestic violence accounted for more than 10 percent of all homicides in California in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available, according to a report from the California Attorney General’s Office.

Since January, there have been eight fatal domestic violence encounters in the Sacramento area involving the deaths of 14 victims – eight of whom were children, according to an analysis by The Bee.

The survey found 32 percent of Latina women said they had been a victim of abuse, compared to 34 percent of women overall. Sixty-five percent of Latina women said they knew a friend of family member who had been abused, compared to 58 percent of women in total.

The survey broke out Latino respondents because they make up the largest single demographic group in California, accounting for nearly 40 percent of the population, according to U.S. Census data.

The survey also looked at what actions by a partner are perceived as violence, and how those attitudes differed by race and gender. While most across the board agreed physical abuse was domestic violence, the numbers changed when it came to mental or financial control of a partner. Just 57 percent of men saw it as a form of domestic violence to keep control of money, while 72 percent of women did. Eighty-six percent of women said mental control was intimate violence, while only 74 percent of men thought so.

Anita Chabria: 916-321-1049, @chabriaa