Gender gap in political alignment and electoral behaviour
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Gender Gap in Political Alignment and Electoral Behaviour. Professor Bernadette C. Hayes. Lecture Outline. Introduction Gender Gap Modern Gender Gap Electoral Importance of the Gender Gap Gender Gap in Political Attitudes Theoretical Explanations for the Gender Gap. GENDER GAP.

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Lecture Outline

  • Introduction

  • Gender Gap

  • Modern Gender Gap

  • Electoral Importance of the Gender Gap

  • Gender Gap in Political Attitudes

  • Theoretical Explanations for the Gender Gap


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GENDER GAP

  • Difference in the proportion of women and men voting for any given candidate, generally winning candidate

  • (% women vote bush - % men vote bush)

  • Percentage difference between the two-party lead

  • (% men vote cons - % men vote labour) – (% women vote cons - % women vote labour)


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The Traditional Gender Gap in Political Attitudes and Electoral Behaviour

  • Previous empirical research in the 1950s and 1960s found:

  • although men and women usually voted on the same lines when divergence occurred:

  • women more likely to vote for right-wing parties

  • greater concern for morality issues

  • opposition to armed conflict

  • Maurice Duverger (1955) benchmark European study of Norway, France and Germany; Angus Campell (1960), The American Voter


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Modern Gender Gap in the US Electoral Behaviour

  • Since the 1980s, a different and more pronounced gender gap has emerged in the US and elsewhere. In US

  • women notably less likely than men to identify with the republican party

  • First became evident in Reagan versus Carter presidential contest in 1980:

  • 8% fewer women than men voted for Reagan

  • 7 percentage points less likely to vote for bush in 2004

  • Gender realigment: women voters have become more left-wing than men


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INGLEHART AND NORRIS (RISING TIDE) Electoral Behaviour

  • Gender gap in over 60 nations using World Values Survey

  • In most advanced industrial societies in the 1980s

  • women tended to be more right-wing than men

  • By the mid-1990s the gender gap had either:

  • converged (dealigned)

  • women moved significantly further to the left (realigned)

  • Traditional gender gap remained most common in:

  • Post-communist and developing societies


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Similar Process Has Occurred in Britain (Norris in Evans and Norris)

During post-war decade (1950s) women lent more strongly towards the Conservatives

  • the size of the gender gap was around 14%

  • since 1979, overall gender gap has been around 3%

  • In 2005 (Campbell and Lovenduski):

  • women were more likely to vote for Labour than men

  • 38% of women voted for Labour compared to 34% of men

    Generational Effect (Norris):

  • Labour support particularly strong among younger women

  • 43% of women aged 18-24 say vote labour as compared to 34% of young men


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Electoral Importance of the Gender Gap Norris)

  • Demographic gap – women make up majority of the electorate

  • Turnout gap – women more likely to vote

  • Geographical location – women and men dispersed evenly across constituencies

  • Electoral volatility – women more likely to be undecided or floating voters


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Political Attitudes: W Norris)omen now considered an important source of distinctively liberal or “leftist” political attitudes

  • Traditionally, women more likely to reject the use of force either in

  • foreign affairs (war)

  • domestic policy (capital punishment)

  • However, now also different in relation to a range of moral issues (shapiro and mahajan):

  • more egalitarian and compassionate in relation to economic issues

  • markedly more support of government intervention for the poor

  • more pro-environment

  • more supportive of women and minority rights and reproductive rights

  • Still more conservative on a range of traditional moral issues:

  • availability of pornographic materials

  • drug usage

  • alternative lifestyles


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Theoretical explanations for the gender gap Norris)

  • Issue-based explanations

  • Structural and situational explanations

  • Political mobilisation theories

  • Generational accounts


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Issue-based explanations Norris)

  • Some evidence to suggest an increasing polarisation of men and women in relation to their political attitudes

  • Men more concerned with the economy

  • more supportive of military foreign policy

  • Women more concerned with compassionate issues:

  • government support for the poor

  • health

  • childcare

  • education

  • social welfare generally

  • As Democratic party seen as more supportive of public policies of a compassionate nature, more appealing to women


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Structural and Situational Explanations Norris)

  • Traditionally, women:

  • less educated

  • more religious

  • not working

  • domestic and childcare responsibilities

  • According to this explanation gender is a basic social cleavage like any other

  • Women’s different lifestyles and responsibilities lead them to have:

  • different patterns of political participation

  • partisan/party loyalties

  • political priorities on a range of issues such as childcare, education and welfare

  • More importantly, once these gender-role differences decline, female voting behaviour come to resemble that of men

  • women become even more leftish than men


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Political Mobilisation Theories Norris)

  • Focus on the development of the women’s movement

  • and the growth of feminist consciousness

  • Most developed by Pamela Conover who argues that:

  • having a feminist identity is significantly related to a range of domestic and policy preferences

  • although, overall, she found no major difference between women and men in relation to issues such as egalitarianism, individualism

  • having a feminist identity led women to be

  • more supportive of welfare spending

  • less supportive of military action


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Pamela Conover Norris)

  • Conover argues that the American gender gap is due to:

  • Mobilisation of the women’s movement around issues of gender equality

  • and the growth of a feminist identity

  • She concludes that becoming a feminist may act as a catalyst that helps women to recognise their underlying female values


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Generational Accounts Norris)

  • Emphasises the process of value-evolution associated with societal modernisation. Specifically focuses on intergenerational value change in post-industrial societies

  • Argues that common developments such as profound changes in:

  • traditional sex roles and educational and material resources and opportunities

  • have transformed the lifestyles and values of women, particularly among the younger generations in post-industrial societies

  • This younger generation of women spent their formative years during:

  • the height of the second-wave feminist movement

  • the social revolution in gender roles that occurred in the 1960s

  • changes in cultural values associated with feminism


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Realignment of women’s political values among the younger generations

  • Are more left-wing than older women

  • and more left-wing than young men

  • Are the true-postmaterialists in that they emphasise:

  • environmental protection

  • strong support for government spending on the welfare state

  • public services

  • pacifism in the deployment of military force

  • This group likely to increase in the future as the older generations of women who still adopt a conservative position in relation to voting and policy issues die off


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