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This article analyses the gender differences in political knowledge in a rarely studied area: Europe. Additionally, these findings show that even after controlling the varying access of men and women to resources and opportunities, ificant gender differences in knowledge remain. Two factors distinctively affect the knowledge of men and women: age and education. First, and as a direct consequence of generational changes, the gender gap increases to a great extent with age. Second, the gender gap among low educated citizens is about twice as large as it is among their highly educated counterparts.
The sharp differences in the political orientations and behavior of women and men reported in studies during the s has become smaller in magnitude as research has advanced during the following decades. Whereas during the s gender differences were exaggerated and often not even based on rigorous empirical evidence as Bourque and Grossholtz demonstrateby the end of the s researchers had only established slight differences in the political orientations of men and women.
Facts everyone should know
This was partly because they avoided the methodological bias that plagued studies and partly because relevant structural changes took place in modern societies such as the expansion of education, changes in socialization, and the accompanying generational replacement Lovenduski These studies predominantly focused on the U. It would be useful to draw upon broader-based research; however, cross-national comparative studies of differences between men and women in their political orientations and behavior are scarce. Despite this tendency towards a greater degree of equality in the political orientations of males and females, gender differences in political participation and knowledge have proven to be remarkably persistent across time.
Notwithstanding the tremendous increase in the degree of gender equality in political power and resources in industrialized democracies, women appear to participate and to know about politics to a lesser extent than men Burns ; Delli Carpini and Keeter; Norris Although some researchers have noted that the difference is often small in comparison Know any of these woman other inequalities such as education, social class, or age Norris ; Burnsgender differences in knowledge appears to be the most enduring and strong.
Studying the gender differences in political knowledge has important implications for representative democracy. The uneven distribution of knowledge between men and women contributes to a bias in the shape of collective opinion Althausand raises a of normative concerns. If women systematically have lower levels of knowledge than men, they may be less well represented in the democratic system.
This would imply a clear disadvantage in women's capacity to voice their political needs and wishes, and thus to influence the political decision-making process. This article aims to explore: i the extent to which there is a ificant gap between men and women in their apparent knowledge about politics in Europe and ii the factors that contribute to explaining such a gap.
These differences however, appear to depend on the topic covered by the survey question. From the seven items analyzed here, only one can be considered to be gender relevant that referring to knowledge about the minister of education. This is the only topic where the differences in the percentage of correct, incorrect, and DK answers between men and women do not reach statistical ificance.
Additionally, the findings show that even after controlling for the varying access of men and women to resources and opportunities, ificant gender differences in knowledge remain.
First, and as a direct consequence of generational changes, the gender gap increases to a great extent with the age of citizens. Second, the gender gap among low-educated citizens is about twice as large as among their highly educated counterparts. These findings transcend individual political systems, since they can be generalized across Europe.
The present study makes two ificant contributions to the growing debate over gender differences in political knowledge. First, it tests the gender gap hypothesis with comparative European data. The scarce work in the area has employed within-country research, and predominantly focused on the U. literature has tried to explain the factors ing for the apparent deficit in the political knowledge of women in comparison to men.
Scope of the problem
The key findings can be located within two main lines of research. The first is substantive and the second is methodological. First, the most common explanation of gender bias in knowledge is based on socialization theory, which states that traditional social norms define men as those who are in charge of public life; whereas women are more in charge of Know any of these woman domestic or private domain, since they are more committed to childrearing and family life Delli Carpini and Keeter To put it succinctly, females are more likely to be responsible for parenting and other caring activities, given their traditional role within the family.
These responsibilities imply an additional cost in the decision to become informed about politics. The knowledge gap between men and women has also been interpreted as a product of the traditional socioeconomic disadvantages that women in general have suffered, and continue to suffer, such as lower salaries or lower levels in the hierarchy of work. Therefore, it is not the fact that they are women that affects what they know or DK about politics, but that men and women are situated differently in the social structure, have different levels of material resources, divergent work tasks and responsibilities, and therefore varying amounts of available time to dedicate to informing themselves about politics Frazer and Macdonal In short, the determinants of what people know or DK about politics are themselves gendered.
Higher levels of socioeconomic and cognitive resources for men than for women explain their knowledge differences. Nevertheless, some studies argue that even when the socioeconomic differences between men and women are slight or even disappear Know any of these woman, their effect on what people know or DK about politics might be different for men and women.
Are women opting out?
There are two leading arguments in this respect. The first is that cognitive and economic resources have a stronger influence on knowledge for women. Various reasons could potentially explain the greater effect of education on knowledge for women than for men. On the one hand, education promotes values such as gender equality. Education then might be more transformative for women than for men given that women have historically suffered socioeconomic disadvantages with respect to men.
Do men and women want the same things?
On the other hand, it could be argued that women's education should be more effective in promoting civic knowledge because they study humanities to a greater extent than men. A second possibility is that the positive effect of education on political literacy is lower for women than for men.
This has recently been demonstrated for the U. The reason again is connected with the static forces of socialization. Schools may be a source of unequal socialization that perpetuates women's historical exclusion from political life Dow A direct consequence of the socialization process is that women might be less motivated and attracted to the political world than men Delli Carpini and Keeter The second set of explanations of the gender gap in knowledge is methodological and focuses on measurement questions and the way in which the survey instrument can Know any of these woman the responses of those interviewed.
According to this line of research, the differences between men and women on what they appear to know or DK about politics are only apparent, and in no way imply that women know less than men. The argument is that women answer survey questions differently, depending on various factors: such as the environment in which they are interviewed, the sex of the interviewer McGlone, Aronson and Kobrynowiczor the format of the questions Mondak and Anderson Moreover, Mondak and Anderson have demonstrated that at least in the U.
The special format of factual political knowledge questionnaires which normally contains a Know any of these woman of questions with various options, where the respondent chooses the statement that they think is correct means that there is room to guess to a great extent. Several studies have found that gender differences in knowledge are a function of the different propensity of men and women to guess Mondak and Anderson Moreover, women have a higher degree of risk aversion. This risk aversion generally means that women are more fearful of choosing the wrong option.
So, rather than risk a wrong answer, they prefer to choose the DK option. In contrast, men are more prone to guess when choosing what they think is the correct answer Lizotte and Sidman Two different solutions have been proposed to neutralize this apparent gender gap in knowledge.
The first regards the format of the political knowledge questions in the surveys. The second concerns the specific topics covered by the survey questions.
In relation to the format of the political knowledge items, the main debate regards the use of the DK option. Some scholars recommend the use of closed-ended items in which DKs are not explicitly offered Mondak and Anderson or Know any of these woman least discourage the use of the DK option Mondak ; whereas more recent studies urge caution about discouraging DK, given the risk that respondents will be more motivated to simply provide their best guess, and therefore inflate general levels of knowledge Luskin and Bullock ; Sturgis, Allum and Smith Regarding the specific topics covered by the political knowledge items, it is argued that the traditional way to measure political knowledge is gender-biased.
Moreover, women are commonly portrayed as apathetic people who do not want females in public office and who are less willing to participate or to provide their opinion about controversial political issues.
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This perspective is often distorted and exaggerated by research that focuses on men's interests and fields of knowledge. Consequently, this latter argument contends that the gender gap in knowledge is only apparent: a product of the narrow definition of politics limited to Know any of these woman and political parties that excludes those interests about which women are most concerned Smiley —such as, for instance, questions more relevant to citizens' daily lives like government programs, benefits and services, or local politics Norris : Despite the fact that these ideas were put forward during the s see the seminal article by Bourque and Grossholtzthey have not been fully applied to the study of political participation until very recently.
Consequently, it is clear that there has been a tendency to narrowly conceptualize political participation in the literature Coffe and Bolzendahl However, recent studies have suggested that perhaps women do not participate less, but rather, participate in a different way than men Harrison and Munn ; Hooghe and Stole ; Lister, ; Norris ; Stole and Hooghe Turning to the literature on political knowledge, it is only very recently that various studies have found that there are different dimensions of political knowledge, and that there seem to be specific domains of knowledge that are more relevant to one group than the other.
For instance, Delli Carpini and Keeter provide convincing evidence about race and gender-specific domains of knowledge. These indicators hint at the possibility that many citizens who ignore details about national politics may be more interested in local affairs.
The scarce literature on local political knowledge suggests that surveys of political competence do not need to center upon national politics, as the meaning of politics might differ across citizens Lupia Three additional and more recent studies show that there are policy areas and practical political information that are more directly relevant to women than to men. More specifically, Stolle and Gidengil have demonstrated that Canadian women know more about practical aspects of political knowledge such as government benefits and services than men.
Dolan shows that gender-relevant political knowledge such as women candidates and women officeholders close the gender gap between men and women. Finally, Shaker shows that the gender gap in knowledge about national politics disappears in the case of local politics. Unfortunately, cross-national studies about the gender gap in knowledge are scarce.
The present article aspires to work towards addressing this gap in the literature.
Violence against women
It is acknowledged that the data are not perfectly suited to fully test Know any of these woman hypothesis that the gender gap in politics is a function of what is defined as knowledge; nonetheless, it is argued that the data allow a first comparative exploration of this topic. To sum up, existing scholarship le us to a of empirical expectations that are tested here with cross-national European data. The first hypothesis is that there are gender differences in the propensity to guess, and that the magnitude of such gender differences might change with the type of item covered by the survey.
The second is that women are less likely than men to possess the antecedents of knowledge socioeconomic and cognitive resources and this might explain part of their knowledge differences; and the third is that the magnitude of the effects of all factors that contribute to explaining knowledge might be different for men and women.