Poll: Few Identify As Feminists, But Most Believe In Equality Of Sexes

04/16/2013 05:53 pm ET | Updated Apr 16, 2013

Only one-fifth of Americans identify as feminists, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll. But the vast majority fit the basic definition of the word.

According to the survey, just 20 percent of Americans -- including 23 percent of women and 16 percent of men -- consider themselves feminists. Another 8 percent consider themselves anti-feminists, while 63 percent said they are neither.

Broken down by party, 32 percent of Democrats, 19 percent of independents and only 5 percent of Republicans said they are feminists.

But asked if they believe that "men and women should be social, political, and economic equals," 82 percent of the survey respondents said they did, and just 9 percent said they did not. Equal percentages of men and women said they agreed with that statement, along with 87 percent of Democrats, 81 percent of independents and 76 percent of Republicans.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines feminism as "the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes."

The gulf between the percentage of people who identify as feminists and the percentage who believe in the equality of the sexes may be partly due to a branding problem for the word "feminism." Thirty-seven percent said they consider "feminist" to be a negative term, compared to only 26 percent who consider it a positive term. Twenty-nine percent said it's a neutral term.

Among Republicans, 58 percent said the term is mostly negative, compared to 40 percent of independents and 20 percent of Democrats. Men were also more likely than women to consider "feminist" a negative term (42 percent to 32 percent), but even among women, more said the term is negative than positive (32 percent to 29 percent).

Moreover, few Americans think that most others identify as feminists. Only 27 percent said they thought most women are feminists (37 percent said a majority are not, and 36 percent said they weren't sure), and only 7 percent said they thought most men are feminists (67 percent said a majority are not, and 27 percent said they weren't sure).

Among those who identified themselves as either feminists or strong feminists, though, 43 percent said they thought most women are feminists.

The poll was conducted April 11-12 among 1,000 adults using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church attendance.

The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov's nationally representative opinion polling.

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