Gillibrand on Polling Woes: 'People Are Generally Biased Against Women'

Sen. Kristen Gillibrand / Getty Images
May 13, 2019

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) said she's being underestimated in the crowded race for the 2020 Democratic nomination, blaming "gender bias" and the fact people are "generally biased against women."

In a CNN profile about how Gillibrand is "living her best life" by having fun on the campaign trail, the low-polling senator gave a "hearty 'yeah'" when asked if she's not being taken seriously enough on the trail.

"I think it's just gender bias. I think people are generally biased against women. I think also biased against young women," she said. "There's just bias and it's real and it exists, but you have to overcome it."

It was unclear if Gillibrand, a 52-year-old mother of two, was referring to herself as "young." She called herself a "young mom" when she announced her formation of an exploratory committee in January, later admitting she didn't mean to say that.

She followed up her criticism of "people" by saying voters "will give a woman a shot."

"They just have to get to know her," Gillibrand said. "They might make a judgment without knowing her, but once they meet her and know who she is and why she's running, it will give her that opportunity."

Gillibrand has leaned into women's issues as her signature platform, even incorporating pink into her campaign colors, but she hasn't made a blip in national or early-state primary polling. The 2020 field includes multiple female candidates, such as Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), Kamala Harris (D., Calif.), and Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.), but is being dominated thus far by former Vice President Joe Biden, followed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) in a distant second.

Adding to Gillibrand's woes has been her inability to crack the Democratic National Committee's donor threshold for the first debates on June 26 and 27. Candidates have to either get 65,000 unique donors—including 200 different donors in at least 20 states—or reach 1 percent in three reputable national or early-primary state polls.

Gillibrand has accomplished the latter, but she hasn't achieved the former; even author and spiritual healing guru Marianne Williamson topped that number before her.

One of Gillibrand's gimmicks to get donations was to release a video of her sinking a beer pong shot and asking for a $1 donation if she sunk it. She also put out a video of herself working out in a t-shirt referencing the viral moment when an Iowa voter moved past her to get ranch dressing.

Emmy Bengtson, Gillibrand's deputy communications director and head of digital operations, said the videos are possible because of the candidate's "joyful, spontaneous" personality.

"I probably am having more fun than the other candidates," Gillibrand said, around the time a New Hampshire poll showed her at zero percent.