JANET CLARK CAL CLARK
The declining levels of trust described in Chapters 1 and 3 imply that something is amiss in the American polity. Clearly, the public believes that its "ownership" of democratic government in the United States has become quite tenuous. And if government has "broken a contract" with the nation's citizens, it is reasonable to expect that relatively marginal groups in society would be the ones who feel betrayed and alienated the most. In this chapter we argue that the rise of the socalled gender gap in the 1980s represented such a "broken contract" for women in America, since the growth of a distinctive women's perspective on political issues arose, essentially, because the polity failed to respond to several basic needs facing different types of women in modern society.
Up through the mid- 1970s, the voting behavior and most political attitudes of men and women appeared to be remarkably similar. Table 9.1, for example, presents the gender gap in presidential and congressional voting and in party identification from 1952 to 1992. 1 For most of this period, there was little systematic difference between the sexes in terms of their voting or party preference; in fact, women leaned toward the Republicans during the Eisenhower era. During the 1980s, in sharp contrast, women became substantially less supportive of Republicans than men in presidential voting; by mid-decade, a gender gap of almost 10 percentage points had opened up between men and women in terms of both their voting for and approving the presidential performance of Ronald Reagan. A somewhat earlier gap had emerged for identification with the Democrats as women stayed loyal to the more liberal party in the face of significant male defections during the 1970s and 1980s. (The absence
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Publication information: Book title: Broken Contract?Changing Relationships between Americans and Their Government. Contributors: Stephen C. Craig - Editor. Publisher: Westview Press. Place of publication: Boulder, CO. Publication year: 1996. Page number: 167.
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