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Most Americans don't view Hillary Clinton's presidential nomination as "historic"

Why do so few Americans regard Clinton's nomination as "historic"?
Why do so few Americans regard Clinton's nomination as "historic"?
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton will soon become the first female presidential nominee of a major party.

But only a little more than a third of Americans think her securing of the nomination marks a "historic" moment — and whether you agree depends a lot on what party you are in, according to a new poll released on Tuesday from Vox and the nonpartisan technology and media company Morning Consult.

Zachary Crockett / Vox

It turns out that the majority of Americans disagree with the idea that Clinton’s nomination is "historic." Overall, only 38 percent of the country says it is.

Party determines whether you think of Clinton’s achievement as "historic"

The poll found 52 percent of Democrats say Clinton's nomination is "historic," as do 40 percent of independents, while just 19 percent of Republicans would say the same. And though a majority of Democrats agree with this descriptor, it’s hardly an overwhelming one.

It might be tempting to think that women are willing to cross party lines on this front, but the poll didn’t bear this out. Only a small portion of Republican women (also just 19 percent) think of Clinton’s nomination as historic, compared with just 20 percent of Republican men.

Of course, "historic" is a pretty squishy term — there’s no immediately clear definition for what it means, and it’s subject to a range of interpretations.

But overall, far fewer people appear to think it’s a big deal that a woman was nominated for president than you might expect. After Clinton became the presumptive nominee last week, the media widely referred to her nomination as "historic." Even Clinton’s harshest critics in the press seemed to buy that shared premise. (A good example via Fox News: "Hillary’s historic nomination isn’t a victory for women, it’s a betrayal.")

But for whatever reason — perhaps a long and drawn-out primary fight, hyperpolarization in American life, or general dislike of Hillary Clinton — Americans just aren’t feeling the historic nature of the #ImWithHer movement.

Republican women won’t vote for Hillary Clinton because she’s a woman

Donald Trump Hillary Clinton heads side by side (Getty Images)

Of course, it’s no surprise that Republican women don’t love Hillary Clinton. After all, more than 70 percent of them plan to vote for Trump in the general election, according to the latest Fox News poll.

But one could still have imagined that Clinton’s gender would help make her at least somewhat more appealing to women across the aisle, and that it might open the door for Clinton to try winning over a slice of female Republicans in the fall.

Indeed, that idea appears to be playing into the Clinton campaign’s electoral strategy. The prospect of the first woman president — coupled with Trump's track record of insulting women — has Clinton’s team laying the groundwork to win "moderate Republican women put off" by Trump, according to the Wall Street Journal.

But the new poll suggests that the overriding law of American politics is still partisanship, not gender.

Both Democratic men and women, for instance, are significantly more likely than Republicans of either gender to think of Clinton’s nomination as "historic." About 45 percent of Democratic men and 58 percent of Democratic women think so, according to the new poll.

Perhaps Democratic women will be slightly more energized about Clinton’s campaign than Democratic men. But by a pretty healthy margin, party allegiance is much more closely tied to views about the "historic" nature of Clinton’s nomination than gender.

If Clinton wins, it won’t be because of her gender

Now, it’s not just Republicans and Democrats whose views on Clinton herself may be influencing their responses on the significance of a female presidential nominee.

Young people overwhelmingly backed Bernie Sanders during the primary, and are generally distrustful of Clinton herself. They’re also the least likely age group to find Clinton’s nomination "historic" — just 29 percent do so, compared with 52 percent for the oldest voters.

Part of the age gap here could be explained by cultural changes. "We see it as inevitable that one day a women [sic] will occupy the one that is oval-shaped," writes Molly Roberts at the Washington Post of Clinton securing the number of delegates necessary to get the nomination. "The notion of the first female major-party presidential nominee is greeted with a collective millennial yawn."

Clinton at a rally in New Hampshire on Monday. (Scott Eisen/Getty Images)
Clinton at a rally in New Hampshire. (Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

Still, as Roberts says, young people’s attitudes toward Clinton the individual are almost certainly a factor here, too. And, as with the Republican women, the polls suggest it’s highly unlikely Clinton will win over millennials on the basis of her "historic" candidacy alone.

All of this confirms what Vox’s Kay Steiger reported back in May: Research suggests that voters don’t let gender guide their decisions at the ballot box.

And that may be the silver lining here for Clinton boosters. Clinton looks likely to win the White House in November. If she does so, it almost certainly won’t be because the voters were simply taken with the groundbreaking prospect of a woman president.

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