GENDER GAP Political differences between men and women--specifically, differences in voting patterns and in public opinions. The gender gap is measured by polling. In fact, we would have no evidence of the gender gap, but for polls--especially exit polls, which show how people actually voted and suggest what motivated them ( M. L. Young, 1987:86). Since 1980, these polls have consistently disclosed two key differences linked to gender. First, women are more likely than men to vote for Democratic candidates; and second, women hold different opinions than men on a number of domestic and foreign issues. These differences--both the pro-Democratic voting and the issue differences--are on the order of 5 to 10 percentage points ( Asher, 1988:187-191).
The gender gap shows up in virtually every social and political group, but it is most pronounced among westerners, younger women, whites, and unmarried voters. The latter group is particularly important, registering a gender gap two to three times larger than among the overall population.
Six prominent gender gap issues separate men and women. Three of these-- increased defense spending, nuclear power, and the death penalty--are more opposed by women than by men. The other three--gun control, social security, and arms control--are more favored by women than by men ( Heidepriem and Lake, 1987:6-7). The so-called women's issues--the ERA, reproductive choice, and sexual discrimination--also show a gender gap, but one not as wide as on some other issues.
There is no settled explanation for the gender gap. One popular idea is that the women's vote is motivated by economics. Women, according to this view, have been more harshly treated economically than men, so they are simply pursuing their economic interests in the candidates they vote for and the issues they support ( Frankovic, 1982:431-448).
Whatever causes the gender gap, its continuation could have profound political implications. By the early 1990s, there were about ten million more women than men among the voting age population. Moreover, women overall
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Publication information: Book title: Dictionary of Polling:The Language of Contemporary Opinion Research. Contributors: Michael L. Young - Author. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1992. Page number: 77.
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