Key Findings

The Shriver Report Snapshot: An Insight Into the 21st Century Man

Hart Research conducted an online survey of 818 adult men on behalf of the Shriver Report from April 10 to 13, 2015.  The survey is nationally representative of the adult male population age 18 and older and comports with US Census data for that population.  An online survey that is self-administered is particularly useful for a survey such as this that explores potentially controversial and sensitive topics such as attitudes about gender and sex.

Men are more likely to report that it is harder rather than easier to be a man in their generation compared with their father’s generation.

  • By a margin of 45% to 20%, men say that compared with their father’s generation, it is harder to be a man in their own generation, while 35% say it is no easier or harder to be a man. There is little difference in attitudes on this measure by age, as both 18- to 34-year-olds (44% harder, 24% easier) and men age 65 and older (45% harder, 14% easier) agree that it is harder rather than easier to be a man in their generation compared with their father’s generation.

 

Men Key Findings 1

  • When asked to describe in their own words why it is harder to be a man in their generation compared with their father’s, men are most likely to say this is due to women attaining a stronger position in the workplace, a stronger position financially, and greater gender equality. These men also cite negative assumptions about men, a more competitive job market, greater household responsibilities for men, and greater expectations for men in society today. The following are a number of verbatim responses from survey respondents:

 

“In my dad’s day, women stayed home and the men worked. Now, both men and women work in the same area as men do, so it’s hard for us to be men.”

“With the blending of the gender roles and the fact that society is not dependent upon physical labor as much as it used to be, the traditional roles that men play have been dismissed.”

“If you stand up as a man, it is taken as putting females down. No more ‘Man of the House.’”

“Each generation has its challenges. In the past, it was men conforming to rigid role expectations. In our generation, a man has more challenges finding his own way.”

  • Those who say that it is easier to be a man in their generation compared with their father’s cite the same causes: the changing role of women, with women attaining a stronger position in the workplace, a stronger position financially, and greater gender equality. So, regardless of their conclusions, men say that women and their changing role in society is the greatest difference between their and the prior generation.


Men report conflicting attitudes on shifting gender roles, with most being very comfortable with a wife or partner working outside of the home and making more money than they do. However, men do not show a similarly high degree of comfort with other situations, particularly taking on the role of a stay-at-home dad.

  • When presented with a series of situations and asked to evaluate them on a scale from +5 (very comfortable) to -5 (very uncomfortable), a majority of men report being very comfortable (rating of +4 or +5) with the increasing professional empowerment of women in the workplace. Men express a high level of comfort with being married to or living with a woman who works outside of the home (63% very comfortable) or having a female partner that makes more money than they do (51%). And nearly half (49%) of men are very comfortable with working for a woman.
  • However, while men are very comfortable with women taking on a greater role outside of the home, they do not report feeling as comfortable with taking on a greater role in raising their children. A somewhat lower 44% of men say they are very comfortable with taking 12 weeks of paternity leave; just 24% are very comfortable with being a stay-at-home dad to focus on raising a child.

 

Men Key Findings 2

Men have a clear sense of society’s expectations for men today, and their idea of being a strong man is focused most on personal character and integrity. But while men are clear about expectations in general, they are more divided on their personal definition and whether it is more important to provide for or be present for their family.

  • Fully 85% of men say they have a clear sense of the expectations for men and the role that they play in American society today. This belief is shared across generations and all demographic groups.
  • Sixty-seven percent (67%) report that they have a strong male role model that they identify with and look up to. Among those that have a role model, the old adage “father knows best” certainly is true—67% say that their father is their role model. Another 15% mention a different male relative, while just 3% mention an elected official, and 2% offer a celebrity, including athletes.
  • When thinking about ways a man should show strength today, 68% say that having strong personal character and sense of integrity is one of the most important ways to be a strong man in today’s world. This tops the list, with the ability to be a strong provider financially (44%), being confident enough to follow your own path (40%), and having emotional strength to deal with stressful situations (37%) sharing second-tier status. Just 11% of men cite being physically strong as one of the most important ways to show strength as a man in today’s world.
  • Men ages 65 and older, some of whom comprise the Silent Generation, are less likely than younger men to say that having emotional strength to deal with stressful situations is an important way to show strength in today’s world (just 29% cite this, compared with 37% overall). Older men also are most likely to mention physical strength as a defining characteristic for men (17% compared with 11% overall).

 

Men Key Findings 3

  • A 54% majority of men say it is more important for them to be present and be a partner for their significant other/spouse and/or family, while 46% believe that it is more important to provide for them.

 

Men Key Findings 4

  • Younger men, those under age 50, men who have a higher socioeconomic status, and Hispanics are more likely to say it is most important to be present.

 

Men Key Findings 5

Men define the American Dream much more in terms of achieving a successful family life than in terms of financial or professional success. And most men believe that they are likely to achieve their version of the American Dream.

  • When asked to rank four definitions of the American Dream—personal success, financial success, professional success, or leaving a legacy and making a difference—three in five (60%) American men say that personal family success and being present to be a good son, husband, father, and/or friend is most important. None of the other three items comes close, with the second-most important item (financial success) being selected by just 24% as most important to them.

 

Men Key Findings 6

  • Regardless of which vision of the American Dream is most important to them, majorities of men believe that they are likely to achieve their top goal.       And those among the 60% who selected personal success are most likely to believe that they will achieve their American Dream (87% very or fairly likely to do so), with a 53% majority saying they are VERY likely to achieve this.

 

Men Key Findings 7

  • Married men (88% very or fairly likely to achieve their American Dream), as well as men of a higher socioeconomic status, are more likely than other men to believe that they will achieve their American Dream.

 

Men Key Findings 8

The qualities that men want in a wife do not correspond with what they want in a daughter when they grow up.

  • When asked to select from a list of 10 qualities that men most want in a wife or female partner, heterosexual men are most likely to want a wife or female partner that is intelligent (72%), attractive (45%), independent (34%), and sweet (34%).
    • While both 18- to 49-year-old men and those age 50 and older are most likely to want a wife or female partner that is intelligent (68% and 77%, respectively), 18- to 49-year-olds are more likely to want a wife or female partner that is attractive (50%) than are men 50 and older (38%). Conversely, men 50 and older are more likely to want a wife or female partner who is principled (37%) compared with 18- to 49-year-old men (19%).
  • However, when men are asked to choose qualities they are looking for in a daughter from the same list, the qualities do not match up. For a daughter, men still select intelligence (81%) as their top choice, but men place greater import on independence (66%), as well as being strong (48%) and principled (35%). While 34% of men want a wife or female partner to be sweet, just 19% have the same wish for a daughter.

 

Men Key Findings 9

Many men with a wife or living with a female partner are taking on different relationships both inside and outside the home than they were in the past. And these new relationships lead to different perspectives on what it means to be a man today.

  • Consider the following results among the 56% of men in the survey who are married to or living with a female partner:
    • 64% report that their wife or female partner works outside the home.
    • 34% say that they take on a greater share of the household responsibilities than their wife or female partner does.
    • 31% report that their wife or female partner has a higher educational degree than they do.
    • 25% report that their wife or female partner makes more money than they do.
    • And among those who have children at home, 24% say that they take on a greater share of parenting responsibilities than their wife or female partner does.

 

  • This leads to two groups of men:
    • 34% of all men are defined as being in a TRADITIONAL relationship with their wife or female partner, meaning that on three or more of the five items above, they have a traditional relationship with their wife or female partner (e.g. wife or female partner does NOT work outside the home, the man does NOT take on greater household responsibilities, the man has a higher educational attainment, the man makes more money, and the woman takes on a greater share of the parenting responsibilities).
    • 14% of all men are defined as being in a MODERN relationship with their wife or female partner, meaning the opposite is true for three or more of the five items above.
    • Fully 48% of modern men are between the ages of 35 and 49 (just 25% of that age group are traditional men), while 27% of traditional men are ages 65 and older (compared with just 9% for modern men).
    • Both traditional (by 43% to 15%) and modern men (by 44% to 25%) agree that it is harder rather than easier to be a man in their generation than their father’s generation.
    • By 60% to 40%, modern men say it is more important to be present for their family than to provide for them, while traditional men say it is more important to provide by 55% to 45%.
    • Both traditional and modern men say that having strong personal character and integrity is most important for men today. But traditional men are more likely than modern men to say that being a strong provider financially is more important (52% to 42%), while modern men are more likely than traditional men to say that being confident enough to follow your own path, rather than stereotypes, is more important (43% to 33%).

 

OTHER SURVEY FINDINGS

  • Overall, 64% of men are comfortable with having a female president of the United States, including 45% who are very comfortable.
    • African Americans (77%), Hispanics (72%), and those with a college degree or higher (74%), are more likely to be comfortable.
  • Significant proportions of men agree with the following statements:
    • 36% report feeling uncomfortable around homosexual men. Among those who personally know someone who is gay, just 24% agree with this statement. Among those who do not, 62% report being uncomfortable.
    • 22% of men agree that showing emotion is a sign of weakness for men.
    • 22% of men also agree that they have felt the urge to act violently because they felt like their manhood was challenged.
  • Most men report being very comfortable with women in the workplace and nearly half say that they are very comfortable with working for a woman as their boss. But 56% of men agree that, generally speaking, men are more concerned about making good impressions and earning the respect of other men than earning the respect of women.
    • 18- to 49-year-old men are more likely to agree with this statement than men age 50 and older (61% to 47%).
  • Just 39% of men say they are very comfortable being physically affectionate in a public setting with their partner, while 68% are at least somewhat comfortable.
  • 73% agree that the more masculine they feel, the more sexual confidence they have, BUT 64% disagree with the statement that popular American film and television has strongly influenced the way they think about being a man.

 

Download the full survey here.

 

 

 

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