Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made her foreign policy experience a focus of her presidential campaign, and Republican Carly Fiorina won marks for gamely answering questions about the Middle East which Donald Trump couldn't handle. But following last week's attacks in Paris, both may struggle to convince voters of their national security chops.
That's because Americans tend to place less trust in women's ability to deal with foreign policy. "On the issues of terrorism and military response, both men and women voters listen for male voices," found a study conducted by the Barbara Lee Family Foundation shortly after the September 11th attacks in 2001. Female candidates "have less credibility on messages that focus on military 'toughness' than they have on cooperation and consensus," the researchers concluded, offering a number of talking point suggestions which voters considered comparatively persuasive when voiced by women.
While some of this voter bias may have changed in the last decade and a half, Democratic pollster Celinda Lake says it hasn't disappeared. "Voters do look at gender," she commented to Roll Call. "Women do better when people are focused on domestic issues [rather] than foreign policy, on policies that require empathy and being in touch rather than toughness."