December 4, 2017
A controversial new Barbie “Shero”—introduced on November 13 as part of Mattel’s female hero product line of the 58-year-old best-selling toy—is “all dolled up” in a hijab, a head covering worn in public by some Muslim women.
The doll was designed to look like fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first U.S. Muslim woman to earn an Olympic medal—a bronze medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Muhammad received her doppelganger at the Glamour Magazine Women of the Year LIVE Summit, becoming the latest honoree of the Barbie Shero program. Last year, body activist and model Ashley Graham was celebrated at the summit.
Now, a YouGov Omnibus poll has determined that, among 5,207 U.S. adults question on November 21, over one-third (38%) welcomed the doll as “a good thing”, while 18% believed that the doll was “a bad thing” (18%). Others were indifferent (30%) or not sure (14%).
A deeper look at the social issues surrounding the doll reveals that the two camps have stark disagreements.Women are not only more likely to think positively of the doll—but also to care more. Indeed, a little over four in ten women believe that the new hijab-wearing doll is “a good thing” (43%) and only 25% were “indifferent” to the new doll.
Men, on the other hand, were 11 percentage points less likely to say the doll was “a good thing” (32%) and over one-third (34%) of them said that they were “indifferent” to the doll. They also were more likely than women to say that a Barbie adorned with a hijab was “a bad thing” (22%).
A majority of Millennials (44%) and Gen X’ers (41%) also praised the new doll, but Americans over the age of 55 were less convinced. Fewer than one-third (30%) of those older Americans were in favor of Mattel’s new Barbie, while almost the same number were like to say it’s “a bad thing” (25%). Most Americans over age 55 were indifferent about the doll (33%).
Data from YouGov Profiles reveals that the social issues that the doll hopes to champion—such as feminism, sexism, and racism—are contentious topics. When asked if they support companies and organizations who give preference to women in order to encourage gender equality, 62% of those who favor the new Barbie said they do. support them. Of those who oppose the doll, nearly two-thirds (65%) said they oppose corporate efforts to address gender equality.
The two camps also did not agree on matters of race. At least eight in ten Americans (85%) who support the doll say that it’s better for society to be inclusive of different races. Only half of those who oppose the new Barbie(50%) said the same — and, in fact, more than a third of Americans who say that the black, hijab-wearing Barbie is “a bad thing” believe that different races should live separately.
Research contact: Hoang.Nguyen@YouGov.com