Court of Public Opinion Sides with Women on Empathy

Source Organization: Pew Research Center

Author: Paul Taylor


05/21/2009 - President Obama says empathy is one of the qualities he'll be looking for in a new U.S. Supreme Court justice. Meantime, his White House has floated a list of possible nominees that's stacked heavily with women.

Coincidence? Not if you consider the 2008 verdict from the court of public opinion in the intriguing case of Gender v. Character.

Pew Research Center survey taken last year found that 80% of Americans believe that women, generally speaking, are more compassionate than men, while just 5% say men are the more compassionate sex. Empathy and compassion aren't synonymous, but they're close cousins. The dictionary defines the former as "an ability to share in another's feelings" and the latter as "sorrow for the troubles of another, accompanied by an urge to help."

According to the survey, compassion is far from the only character trait that's more of a ladies' thing. Gentlemen, brace yourselves: the public (about half of whom, remember, are guys) thinks women have it all over us on all sorts of qualities that are attractive not just in a judge but in anyone.

Read the full commentary Court of Public Opinion Sides with Women on Empathy on the Pew Research Center's Web site.

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