Helping to Break the Glass Ceiling? Fathers, First Daughters, and Presidential Vote Choice in 2016

  • Jill S. GreenleeEmail author
  • Tatishe M. Nteta
  • Jesse H. Rhodes
  • Elizabeth A. Sharrow
Original Paper


Throughout her 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton crafted messages intended to appeal to fathers of daughters and to highlight the implications of her historic nomination for American girls and women. Clinton reminded voters that her election could mean that “fathers will be able to say to their daughters, you, too, can grow up to be president” (Frizell, Time,, 2015). But did these appeals succeed in mobilizing fathers of daughters to support Clinton? Using original cross sectional and experimental survey data from the 2016 CCES, we ask two questions. First, were men who fathered daughters (a life event which we operationalize, for important methodological and theoretical reasons detailed herein, as men who fathered a daughter as their first child) more likely to support, and vote for, Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election than were those who fathered sons as their first child? Second, were Clinton’s direct appeals to fathers of daughters effective in increasing her electoral support? We find that fathers who have daughters as their first child are more likely to prefer and vote for Clinton, and are more likely to support a fictional female congressional candidate using a “Clintonesque” appeal that emphasizes expanding opportunities for “our daughters.” These results suggest that entry into fatherhood with a daughter (as opposed to with a son) is a formative experience for men that has consequences for their political choices in later life. Our conclusions inform the growing literature on the implications of fathering daughters on men’s political behavior.


Fatherhood Gender Voting behavior Hillary Clinton 2016 



We thank all those who offered feedback on previous versions of this manuscript, especially Laura Stoker, Melissa Deckman, Sarah Kahn, the Working Group on American Politics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the University of Massachusetts Center for Research on Families, Hande Inanc, and the anonymous reviewers. This work was supported by a Faculty Research Grant from the University of Massachusetts–Amherst [to T.N.] and the Norman Fund at Brandeis University [to J.G.]. The 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Study was supported by the National Science Foundation [Grant #1559125 to Stephen Ansolabehere], and the authors thank the co-PIs, Stephen Ansolabehere, Brian Schaffner, and Samantha Luks, for their support of this research.

Supplementary material

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Authors and Affiliations

  • Jill S. Greenlee
    • 1
    Email author
  • Tatishe M. Nteta
    • 2
  • Jesse H. Rhodes
    • 2
  • Elizabeth A. Sharrow
    • 2
  1. 1.Brandeis UniversityWalthamUSA
  2. 2.University of Massachusetts AmherstAmherstUSA

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