Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

The Gender Gap in Political Knowledge in Poland

Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

The Gender Gap in Political Knowledge in Poland

Article excerpt

Introduction

There is a great deal of interest and research on the gender gap in political knowledge. Three basic questions often frame this literature: Is there a gender gap in political knowledge, why is there a gap, and are the sources of political knowledge the same for men and women? Research suggests that there is often a gender gap in political knowledge. Scholars disagree about its source. For some, it is a methodological artifact (e.g., Mondak and Anderson 2004). For others, it reflects differences in characteristics, such as the level of interest in politics, or differences in the return for characteristics, such as education (Dow 2009). Most of the literature on political knowledge, however, focuses on the US. We seek to add to the literature on political knowledge by addressing the following questions: What are the sources of political knowledge and are they the same for men and women in Poland, is there a gender gap in political knowledge in Poland, and are the patterns found in a consolidating democracy similar to those found in established democracies?

We use nationally representative survey data to examine how motivation, ability, and opportunity influence men's and women's knowledge of twelve national political parties- that is, whether they could correctly indicate if each party was currently in the ruling coalition. We predict whether or not the respondents answer 'don't know' to the entire question set as well as whether or not they were able to answer all twelve questions correctly. Independent variables include political interest (motivation); educational attainment and cognitive ability (ability); household income, access to cable or satellite TV, internet access, voting experience, employment status, religious attendance, size of place of residence, marital status, and having children (opportunity); and controls (age and self-esteem). We use multiple imputation to handle missing data and estimate interaction models to test for differences in the coefficients for women and men.

This paper makes several contributions to the literature on political knowledge. First, it examines the gender gap in political knowledge in a new political context-Poland. There are a few single-country studies that focus on the gender gap in political knowledge outside of the US-for example, in Belgium (Hooghe, Quintelier, and Reeskens 2006), Britain (Frazer and Macdonald 2003), Canada (Stolle and Gidengil 2010), and China (Tong 2003). We hope that our analysis will help to establish whether or not differences in the levels and sources of political knowledge are similar to patterns found in other countries despite differences in the political context. Second, our data include measures of both educational attainment and cognitive ability and the cognitive ability measure is based on an intelligence test rather than interviewer assessment. Third, we examine political knowledge as a two-stage process by first predicting whether the respondents answered the knowledge questions or simply indicated that they 'don't know' for the entire question set. In the second step, we examine differences in knowledge among only those providing 'yes' or 'no' answers for each party.

Political Knowledge

Delli Carpini and Keeter (1996) define political knowledge as "the range of factual information about politics that is stored in long-term memory" (p. 10). The broad categories of political knowledge include: 'rules of the game,' 'players,' and 'substance' (e.g., domestic politics) (Delli Carpini and Keeter 1996). Most scholars argue that motivation, ability, and opportunity explain why some people know more about politics than others (see Delli Carpini and Keeter 1996, Chapter 5; Dow 2009: 120; Luskin 1990: 334).

First and foremost, political knowledge depends on motivation. Without interest in politics, people would not pay attention to politics nor would they retain any political information. The level of political knowledge is also rooted in ability. …

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