Continuation of Gender Gap Discussion (Nov 1996)


[continuation of Jeanette Keith 13 Nov]

Now, I'm not saying the GOP country-club ladies didn't sneak down to do that, but the whole stunt seems so frat-boy. Our local conservatives hate Hillary, and write letters to the paper demanding that she be put back into the kitchen and under the stove. (No, I'm not making this up.) Remembering that all politics is local, I wonder if similar interactions may have as much to do with the gender gap as national issues.

>From Lauren H. Coodley laurenil@napanet.net 13 Nov 1996 Reporter Ellen Goodman has some cogent comment on this question in todays SF Chronicle. She points out that this is the first time In American history that men alone would have elected a different candidate (They chose Dole 44% to 43%). She adds, "just for the record, let me say that women, like men, are anxious--about the future, the kids, the uncertainties of a changing time." The reason we haven't seem more discussion in the media, if that younger, women reporters are generally anxious to avoid "women's issues", just like pre- Second Wave in the professions, and older women have been edged out of the media at all levels. Esp. this is evident in the lack of feminist analysis of the treatment of Hillary Clinton.

>From Jody DeRitter deritterj1@tiger.uofs.edu 13 Nov 1996 I'm no expert on political behavior (I'm an English professor), but I suspect we haven't heard much about the gender gap in the election post-mortems because the data seem very muddled at this point. Women voters obviously elected Clinton-Gore both times, and if I were on the governing board of NARAL or NOW-PAC, I'd start asking for the same White House access that's granted to UAW and NAACP bigwigs. But beyond that, it's pretty hard to make any sense of the election in gender terms. Here in Pennsylvania, Clinton won handily, but the Republicans won three of four statewide races. Pennsylvania-NOW saw one of its endorsed candidates elected as state Treasurer, while another was defeated for Attorney General. Just to complicate things a bit, you should know that the Treasurer-elect (Barbara Hafer) is a Republican, while the unsuccessful A-G candidate (Joe Kohn) is a Democrat. Did Hafer win because she had the support of women, or because she's a Republican. Who knows? BTW, I think it's a real mistake to assume either a) that the women's vote can or should always go to Democratic candidates, or even b) that there is always a candidate available for women to vote for. The Democratic party in northeastern Pennsylvania is controlled by Robert Casey, the antiabortion former gov. who's tried unsuccessfully to speak at the last two Dem. conventions. His son, Bob, Jr. was the only Dem. statewide winner this year. A friend of mine in the legal community here was invited to a local Dem. fundraiser two or three years ago and was told that, although he was invited, his wife was not, and he described the experience as like stepping into a time machine--an all-male gathering with lots of cigars, raunchy jokes, and drinking to excess. This may be why, in our Congressional race this year, there was no candidate who connected to women voters. Both the Democratic and the Republican were anti-choice, anti-welfare, anti-child care, and so forth.

[Editor's Note: We have some wonderful responses, such as the following, from U.S. scholars on this topic. What do those of you outside the United States have to say about a gender gap in politics? Is the same true in other countries?]



>From Eileen Boris ecb4d@faraday.clas.virginia.edu 13 Nov 1996

"...According to Stan Greenberg 2 major factors accounted for the gap between the gap for Clinton and Republican retention of Congress. First, the trianglization theory of Morris and Clinton worked to rehabilitate the Republican Congress so more traditionally Republican women (married housewives, suburban) thought Congress accomplished something (welfare 'reform', health insurance) and swung back to them; the campaign finance foreign money of the Democrats hurt them and even Dole's late attacks on Clinton's character, but more the campaign funds. Also this was an election of continuity, rather than change. Greenberg's group polled in mid October and then repolled right before the election. Also, the non-college educated wage earning moms, some of them went to Republican Congress. They were late deciders, though overwhelming for Clinton. I'm sure this will be rebroadcast on Cspan.

>From L. Lee lel@tardis.svsu.edu 13 Nov 1996

This could be an interesting subject. One purely observational point: perhaps more men related to Dole as a veteran. Even though there are women in the military, Dole's participation in WWII presents a common bond for many veterans in his age-group. I wonder if the same gender gap appears in the 60+ age group? Thanks for starting the topic...

>From Margaret Susan Thompson msthomps@juno.com 14 Nov 1996 At least some of the commentary (mostly mass-media) that I've seen on the gender gap suggests that the real "movement" here is by *men* moving out of the Democratic Party, rather than women moving toward it...In any event, I think it's important to realize that the movement is, to some extent, in *both* directions. Any scholarly research in this direction? I'd welcome citations!

>From Marian Neudel mneudel@acfsysv.roosevelt.edu 14 Nov 1996 ...I suspect strongly that it can be explained almost entirely in economic terms. That is, it's only paradoxical if we start off assuming that women should vote consistently with their *family* income. In fact, they are almost certainly voting wit their *individual* incomes. Typically, the less money *anyone* makes, the more likely he or she is to vote Democratic. Close the income and the gender gap will close too. (Republicans, are you listening?) Re: international manifestations of gender gap--in the '80s, the international Zionist Congress had a crucial vote on Israeli prime minister Begin's plans to build settlements on the occupied territories. The major Zionist organization opposing that policy, which led a very vocal campaign and forced a very close vote, was Hadassah, the major Zionist women's organization. A couple of other women's organizations were also involved.

>From Rebecca Edwards reedwards@vassar.edu 14 Nov 1996 another two-cents on the election, from someone who studies women and party politics in the late nineteenth century.

Journalists are clearly struggling to come to terms with women as a voting bloc. They recognize that women have loyalties of religion, race, economic interest, family, region, and ideology that intertwine with their gender identities in complicated ways. For example, some women connect their pro-life position to their special roles as mothers; others do not. Some women say they are environmentalists because they are women; others say gender has nothing to do with it.

What are commentators to make of the interesting fact that 2/3 of vegetarians in the U.S. today are women? That 89 percent of black women voted for Clinton, and the gender gap among black voters was much smaller than among whites? Gender is an indirect influence on many other concerns, and vice-versa. Which raises the question, what exactly are "women's issues", anyway? To my mind, the availability of abortion is a men's issue, and I know men who vote pro-choice as a matter of self interest as well as feminist principle.

On another note I have been angered by the total absence of analysis on the Green vote. Nader ran ahead of Perot in Manhattan; here in Dutchess Co., NY he got 3000 votes. I'm interested to see where this goes in the future, if anywhere. Parties that fall below a certain threshold get entirely ignored, even in many statistical reports on the returns.

>From Elizabeth Pleck e-pleck@uiuc.edu 15 Nov 1996

the gender gap in the 1996 presidential election appeared in all age groups (even those over 60), in all education groups, within blacks, within married couples, within singles.
Edwards asks where are the commentators to note that the gender gap among black voters was much smaller than among whites? The data in the NY Times shows that 89% of black women voters voted for Clinton. The data in the Times shows that 78% of black men voters voted for Clinton. That is a gap of 11 points. The gap between white men and white women was 10 points. I agree that women have loyalties other than gender. However, it is time for historians to recognize that in this election, the data show a gap between male and female voters WITHIN every major social variable.

>From Catherine B. Cleary cleary@omnifest.uwm.edu 15 Nov 1996

Years ago, a friend sent me a quote from Gloria Steinem to the effect that as men age, they get more conservative; as women age they get more radical. As I approach 80, I know this is true for me. Does age have anything to do with the gender gap?

>From Joan Iversen iversejn@oneonta.edu 18 Nov 1996

Just as an aside on this discussion. I was really amused to see a NY Times article in which a NYU woman economics professor was quoted as saying the gender gap had nothing to do with gender but could be explained as economics-because women as caretakers of parents understood the threat of changes to medicare and as mothers feared threats to education. Kind of funny. Because men have elderly parents and children too- and if the women are especially sensitive to these issues it would seem to me to be the consequence of different roles and expectations - and of course that is gender.

>From the Nov. 16 London Times:

In light of the recent discussion on this list of the American gender gap, here is the take of Clare Short, beleaguered member of the British Labour Party's Shadow Cabinet, from the November 16 London Times, edited:

American women did not vote for Clinton's looks, but for his

                       progressive policies, says Clare Short.
                       Women want Blair, but not for his hair.

Last Sunday I was quoted as saying that women's historical tendency to vote more conservatively than men represents a deep political failure for Labour. This is perfectly true. If women had voted Labour in the same proportions as men, we would have seen continuous Labour governments from 1945 to 1979 and Labour would have won in 1992. The Torries' success with women voters explains their domination of political power in the postwar period.

It is nonsense to present these results as a bombshell for Labour. While women's votes have been our historical failure, the polls show a gradual closing of the gap between men's and women's voting behaviour. In 1951, 54 percent of women voted Conservative, compared with 46 percent of men. This represented a "gender gap" between men;s and women's voting behaviour of 17 percentage points. By 1992, the gap was six points. Recent polls suggest that it has narrowed still further.

The recent hysteria in the press over women's voting intent was initially sparked off by a report from the Fawcett Society which simply highlighted the historic trends. The report pointed out that women's votes would be crucial in determining the outcome of the election.

This shift in voting patterns is of great concern to the Conservatives. It is women who have kept them in power. As women's votes shift to Labour, their power base slips away. What is at stake is a historic shift in voting behaviour that will not just influence the next election, but the balance of power over the next 50 years.

And international experience suggests that women's greater involvement in the labour market is followed, after a lag, by a shift in their votes to the more progressive parties. This has perhaps been most graphically illustrated in the United States. In the late 1970s, America had a gender gap, like that in the UK, which favoured the Republicans. But gradually, women's votes have shifted to the Democrats. Last week we saw Bill clinton elected on women's votes. This is not because women find Clinton attractive--far from it. It is because the values of the Democrats are closer to their own.

This is the challenge that faces the Labour Party. If we could achieve this kind of historic shift in Britain, we might never see another Conservative government. The polls show that women share our values on the need for fairness and equality of opportunity, for strong and safe communities and for financial and personal security. If their votes would follow, the face of British politics would be transformed. Current polling suggests that this may be about to happen. With only months to go until the election, Labour is much more popular among women then are the Conservatives, and Tony Blair remains far more popular than John Major with both sexes and all age groups.

Labour is more determined than ever to communicate our message to women and to demonstrate how a Labour government will improve the quality of life to build a better future. It is right to emphasize that women's votes will be a battleground in the campaign. However, we, unlike the press, recognise that women are serious political players. Winning their support will be about offering them the vision and the policies they want, not a fictitious change in hairstyle.

The author is Shadow Minister for Overseas Development.

>From Martin Francis francism@micro.wcmo.edu 20 Feb 1996 A colleague has just passed on to me a piece by Clare Short on the gender gap in the UK which you mailed to the recipients of H-women.

I thought you might be interested (if you don't know about it already) in the contribution of my co-editor and co-contributor Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska (of the Univ. of Wales, Aberystwyth, Wales, UK) on this subject to a volume we co-edited and which was published last month:

Zweiniger-Bargielowska, Ina 'Explaining the Gender Gap: The Conservative Party and the Women's Vote, 1945-1964', in M. Francis and I. Zweiniger-Bargielowska (eds.) _The Conservatives and British Society, 1880-1990_ (Cardiff: U of Wales Press, 1996)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ [Editor's Note: This is a press release from Stanford University on the gender gap in recent American politics, downloaded from: http://www-leland.stanford.edu/dept/news/release/961030gendergap.html Steven D. Reschly, Ed]
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Contact: Kathleen O'Toole, News Service 415-725-1939; e-mail kathleen@news-service.stanford.edu

Comment: Felicia Pratto, Psychology Dept. 415-725-2419

STANFORD--The gender gap in politics, which pollsters expect to be especially large in next week's presidential election, can be attributed to a different stance between men and women toward social equality, says Felicia Pratto, a psychologist who studies political attitudes.

This difference does not consistently show up as a liberal-conservative split, she says. Women voters in this country and elsewhere have been both come conservative and more liberal than male voters in the past, depending upon what the issues of the day were.

"When we ask people in polls to self-identify themselves as liberals or conservatives, we are saying we know what the meanings of those labels are, but I think we are deceived." Pratto says. "That's why it is useful to try and explain differences more explicitly and on a somewhat deeper level."

Pratto's long-term research agenda includes looking for those deeper meanings through laboratory experiments and opinion sampling on an international level. Her survey work in the United States generally fits within an international pattern. It shows that an individual's preference for equality or inequality among social groups explains his or her views on a large number of political issues. Gender differences or gaps in those political attitudes also can be explained largely by a tendency among women to want to attenuate it.

Pratto and her UCLA-based colleague Jim Sidanius and their graduate students consistently find that men are more supportive than women of what Pratto calls "hierarchy enhancing" social policies, such as arresting the homeless for sleeping in public places or increasing military spending. Men are also more likely to endorse ideologies that state or at least imply that certain kinds of people are not as good as others, displaying class, ethnic, national or sexual prejudices, according to their studies. In some countries, this may take the form of supporting a statement such as "God made poor people poor," whereas in the United States, men are more likely to support a statement such as "some people are just more worthy than others."

On average, women are more supportive than men of "hierarchy attenuating" policies, such as government-sponsored health care, guaranteed jobs for all or greater aid to poor children. They are more likely to agree with statements such as "if people were treated more equally, we would have fewer problems in this country." Individuals' responses to such questions, Pratto says, explain more about people's policy preferences than do the liberal or conservative labels that pollsters often ask those they survey to select for themselves.

During the 1992 presidential campaign, Pratto, Sidanius and former graduate student Lisa Stallworth found that individuals' orientation toward social group equality, as measured on Pratto's standardized scale, explained the differential in men's and women's preferences for presidential candidates. The study involved sampling about 400 student at San Jose State University during the campaign and a like number of voters exiting San Francisco Peninsula polling places on Election Day.

Both men and women picked candidates on the basis of policy issues, Pratto says. The women voted more heavily fro Bill Clinton that for George Bush and Ross Perot, and they consistently said that Clinton's stand on various social issues was more similar to their own. Men voted the reverse but also consistent with their stands on social issues. The study, like many others, Pratto said, undermines several stereotypes about women voters: that they vote differently from men because they have views only on issues that tough directly on their home and family, or that they base their vote not on social issues but on the personal characteristics of candidates.

In 1988, George Bush said publicly that he had picked Dan Quayle as his running mate to appeal to women voters, yet Quayle had little record of involvement with issues that affect women. Bush indicated that he though Quayle might appeal to women because he looked handsome like John F. Kennedy.

"My data and other data from the 1992 election show that was a completely failed strategy," says Pratto. "It is a stereotypic notion that women somehow vote with their hearts or are not thoughtful about political issues, but the data show that is not true...They have opinions about the same general issues that men have opinions about, including foreign policy, education, immigration and affirmative action. They happen to not have the same opinions that men do." In general, she said, "women have a different stance from men toward one of the fundamental values that Americans, on average, like to hold dear, and that is social equality."

Because there is a mountain of psychological research demonstrating that humans tend to over categorize people, Pratto takes pains to point out that her research does not find an absolute difference in men and women. There are some women who believe strongly in promoting a social hierarchy, while some men favor more equality. In nearly every sample they take, however, the researchers find an average difference between men and women in their preference for equality, and it is those averages that constitute the gender gap, Pratto says.

The gender gap is greater this year, according to presidential polls, and Pratto suggests it may be because "gaps between groups sometimes get exaggerated when certain issues symbolically polarize people. We saw how the O.J. Simpson trial symbolically polarized blacks and whites," Pratto says. "It's as if on some issues, two groups of voters are not interpreting the same information the same way."

Men and women may be perceiving Dole and Clinton differently on on current high-profile issues such as family values or government spending cuts, she suggests. "The two candidates appear to have differing relationships with their wives, and equality in marital relationships is a more important issue for women than men," Pratto says. "The candidates also differ in their support for social program, like welfare, that are directly relevant to the situation of women and children in this country."

There may be "an element of self-interest" in both men's and women's political positions on social issues this year, Pratto says. For example, women are more likely to oppose cuts in Aid to Families with Dependent Children, which was one of the social program cuts that the Republican Congress emphasized. The program supports more families headed by women than headed by men. Social programs also employ more women as social workers and teachers than men.

But self-interest also could explain men's stronger support for military spending. "It's interesting to contrast how government spending that tends to affect women and children more is not construed in the same way as government spending that tends to affect men more," she says. "I could very well argue that the U.S. military is the biggest affirmative action program for men that there has ever been. Initially, we wouldn't even let women in. Now we let them in, but we tell them that they can't rise above a certain rank because they can't go to combat, so they can't [assume] the roles the military most values. The military gives men job opportunities and a chance to rise in the military hierarchy, so that a man can serve himself and his country at the same time."

"Interestingly researchers who have attributed women's support of social welfare programs to self-interest have not made the same accusation about men's greater support of military and defense programs," she says. "By contrasting the sexes' different impacts and opinions on welfare and military spending," Pratto says, "you can see that it's useful to think about the intersection of gendered psychologies with gendered roles and with self-interest, but not to assume they are all one in the same thing." The sexes differing stance on equality, she says, "might come about because men and women learn an orientation toward social hierarchy or equality by the kinds of roles they play in societies. Women have always been interested in the welfare of children both within their own families and outside their families to a greater extent than men, on average. That's true in their attitudes but also in the kind of roles they play in families, in political movements and in societies. I don't think it is as obvious to women as it is to Newt that family issues are conservative issues."

Gender gaps were uncommon in voting patterns for political candidates immediately after women were granted suffrage in Britain, the United States, western Europe, and Sweden, Pratto wrote in a paper she co-authored with two others for the British Journal of Social Psychology. In the 1950s, a slight tendency developed for women to support conservative candidates in higher proportions than men, but that reversed in the late '70s and '80s.

Scholars believed the modest gap in the '50s was mostly linked to demographic differences, such as women's greater longevity, lower rate of paid labor, and greater religiosity. Older people, lower paid people and more religious people tend to more conservative voting patterns. Women still tend to be more religious than men, but overall, religiosity is declining in Western countries. More women are working outside the home, which also gives them greater exposure to a broader array of political issues.

Since the late 1970s, women in the United States, the United Kingdom and Sweden have been more supportive of leftist political groups, while a higher proportion of men supported rightist or extreme right parties, Pratto says. Scholars have attributed the gap in many election for national office as hawk-dove splits, with British women, for example, less hawkish than prime minister candidate Margaret Thatcher in 1983, and U.S. women less anxious to get tough with the Soviets than presidential candidate Ronald Reagan in 1980.

What does all this mean to the future of the Republican and Democratic parties?

Party leaders would be wise to include more women in policy shaping roles, Pratto says, "especially more women who have a better understanding of what most women in American are interested in politically." "Although there are many more women in Bill Clinton's Cabinet now than in past presidents' Cabinets, they are either single or women whose children are older. That's also true of women in Congress," she says.

Republicans have some "fervent, principled women" in prominent party positions, but "if the Republicans think these women are speaking for all women, they are going to be deceived."

Men in political leadership never have been typical of the average voter, either. They tend to be more elite, but Pratto speculates that fact might not bother male voters as much as it does women. "An interesting question is whether male voters can see themselves as being represented more by men like that than women can," Pratto says, "because they believe more in a social hierarchy in which men have played more elite roles."

>From Don Maroc maroc@islandnet.com 03 Dec 1996

Felicia Pratto gives us some very good analysis to consider. Political party planners and strategists should especially take note. I don't know how she wants to factor it into her equations but there is another variable that could make Pratto's conclusions even more powerful.

Each human being is a complex mixture of female and male attributes. The strength of these is determined both by early training and by our DNA structure, plus the interaction of the two. There are no males without inborn female characteristics, just as there are no females devoid of maleness. Together with the fact that as useful categories liberal and conservative are fast headed toward the trash bin, the importance of this male-female balance in each of us is elevated by the merging roles of the two genders in our occupational and personal lives. The female-male factors in our personalities can be measured, from answers to properly framed questions, just as accurately as a conservative/liberal orientation. If Pratto's analysis has been sound in the past, including the female/male balance can fine-tune a political bludgeon into an election-year rapier.