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Poll: Women Strive To Find Balance

While half of women say it is preferable for women to work while they are raising a family, a significant majority think most women are conflicted about raising a family and working. And even though most credit the women's movement with making their lives better, few women call themselves a feminist outright. (Read the complete poll results )

WORK AND FAMILY

Forty-eight percent of women think it is preferable for women to work while they are raising children, but a third says it is not. Women under age 45 are more likely than those who are older to say it is preferable for women to work.

IS IT PREFERABLE FOR WOMEN TO WORK WHILE RAISING A FAMILY? (Among women)

Yes
48%

No
33%

Don't know
19%


travels to her Michigan hometown to monitor the progress of women
Among women currently working, 47 percent agree that it is preferable for women to work while raising a family, while 35 percent disagree.

Opinion is more divided, however, among working women with children under 18.

Still, most women see a conflict between working full-time and raising a family. Sixty-eight percent of women admit that most women they know think there is a conflict; just a quarter say there is not. Women of many demographic groups, and especially working mothers, say most women they know think there is a conflict between working and raising a family.

DO MOST WOMEN SEE A CONFLICT BETWEEN WORKING AND RAISING A FAMILY? (Among women)

Yes
68%

No
26%

Three in four women say most women work today because they need to support themselves and their family; only 13 percent say women work because they want to. Twenty-two percent of men say women work because they want to. Younger and older women agree that most women work because they need to.
Women with household incomes over $50,000 a year are just as likely as those earning less to say most women work because they need to. Among
working women, 73 percent say most women work because they have to.

DO MOST WOMEN WORK BECAUSE THEY NEED TO OR BECAUSE THEY WANT TO? (Among women)

Need to
75%

Want to
13%

THE WOMEN'S MOVEMENT AND FEMINISM

Most women give credit to the women's movement for improving their lives. Sixty-five percent say achievements by the women's movement have made their lives better. This number is similar to what it was last May, but significantly higher than it was in 1999 when barely half said the women's movement had made their lives better. A New York Times Poll conducted in 1983 found just 25 percent of women said the women's movement had improved their lives.


HAS WOMEN'S MOVEMENT MADE YOUR LIFE BETTER? (Among women)

Yes
Now
65%

2005
69%

1999
48%

1997
43%

1983*
25%

No
Now
30%

2005
27%

1999
40%

1997
48%

1983*
65%

*New York Times Poll

Even though women say their lives have been made better due to the women's movement, not many consider themselves feminists. Just 27 percent of women call themselves a feminist; 68 percent do not. These views have changed little over the years.

DO YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF TO BE A FEMINIST, OR NOT? (Among Women)

Yes
Now
27%

2005
24%

1999
20%

1997
26%

1992*
31%

No
Now
68%

2005
70%

1999
74%

1997
69%

1992*
63%

*Time/CNN Poll

Thirty-nine percent of women who are Democrats call themselves feminists, compared to just 8 percent of those who are Republicans. Although many appear to shy away from the feminist label, few women describe the word "feminist" as an insult. In this poll, 65 percent of women say "feminist" is a neutral term, 14 percent say it is an insult, and another 15 percent describe it as a compliment. In 1999, more women – 22 percent - considered calling someone a feminist an insult.


CALLING SOMEONE A FEMINIST IS ... (Among Women)

A compliment
Now
15%

2005
12%

1999
9%

An insult
Now
14%

2005
17%

1999
22%

Neutral
Now
65%

2005
64%

1999
58%

In a CBS News Poll conducted last May a dictionary definition of the word feminist was included in a poll question, and in that instance, most women said they considered themselves a feminist. In that poll, a feminist was described as "someone who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes", and 65 percent of women identified themselves as a feminist.

A FEMINIST IS SOMEONE WHO BELIEVES IN SOCIAL, POLITICAL, AND ECONOMIC EQUALITY OF THE SEXES. DO YOU THINK OF YOURSELF AS A FEMINIST OR NOT?(Among women)

May 2005
Yes
65%

No
32%

THE STATUS OF WOMEN: LOOKING AHEAD

Most women think the overall status of women in this country is better than it was 50 years ago, and many think it will improve in the future. Seventy-seven percent of women think the overall status of women is better than it was a half a century ago, and 75% of men agree. Eighty-one percent of women working today say the status of women has improved.

Looking ahead, 47 percent of women think the status of women 50 years from now will be better, but many – 43 percent - think not much will change. Only 5 percent think the status of women will be worse. Younger women are more likely than those who are older to be optimistic about the future status of women.

OVERALL STATUS OF WOMEN (Among Women)

50 Years Ago
Better
77%

Worse
5%

Same
15%

50 Years From Now
Better
47%

Worse
5%

Same
43%

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