Studying public opinion towards feminism: emotional and symbolic meaning of feminism in the 21st century (with Marta Fraile and Paula Zuluaga)

What do we mean when we talk about feminism? In recent years, the world has experienced not only the rise of feminist movements and the salience of women’s issues but also a counter-wave against them. Yet, research systematically studying public opinion towards women's movements and feminism, as well as the differences among cohorts, remains surprisingly scarce. This paper sheds light on the understanding of feminism by conducting a survey experiment in Spain, where feminism and backlash against it have been prominent on the public agenda since 2018. Specifically, by manipulating the label used to present feminism, we test the extent to which this term has negative connotations among the public, particularly focusing on socialization and cohort effects. Complementary to this, we explore the meanings of feminism by analyzing an open-ended survey question through content and text analysis. The paper contributes to the present literature by showing the specific emotions and symbols that citizens attach to their ideas about feminism and its role in society.