Contesting Politics: Women in Ireland, North and South

By Yvonne Galligan; Eilís Ward et al. | Go to book overview

14
Is There a Gender Gap in Political Attitudes in Ireland?

FREDA DONOGHUE AND PAULA DEVINE

Differences between women and men on party affiliation, voting preferences, moral issues, the environment, welfare, and other policy issues have been referred to as the gender gap. The idea of the gender gap has also recently entered common parlance. The last U.S. presidential campaign, for example, was seen by sections of the American media to have focused on the gender gap and on the perceived preference among young women voters for Bill Clinton. Early research suggested that women were more conservative than men on a range of political positions ( Lipset 1960; Verba and Nie 1972). More recently this assumption has been challenged on the basis that either there is "malestream" bias or women and men are liberal on different issues ( Goot and Reid 1984; Mueller 1988; Welch and Thomas 1988; Wilcox 1991; Jelen Thomas, and Wilcox 1994; Miller, Wilford, and Donoghue 1996). Other evidence suggests that differences also exist among countries ( Inglehart 1977; de Vaus and McAllister 1989) and that previous gender gaps have now narrowed or been reversed ( Clark and Clark 1986; Norris 1991). This chapter examines evidence for a gender gap in the two parts of Ireland, North and South, and suggests that although a gender gap on party preference does not appear, a difference between the sexes is apparent in relation to other issues such as abortion, divorce, and political union; the evidence also suggests that this gap may not be consistently maintained over time.

The data for the Republic of Ireland are drawn from opinion polls conducted on behalf of the Irish Times by the Market Research Bureau of Ireland. Each survey was based on a quota sample of 1,000 respondents aged eighteen and upwards using 100 sampling points throughout all constituencies in the Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland data are drawn from the Social Attitudes Survey (see Dowds, Devine, and Breen 1997,

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