The association of policy preferences and the gender gap in partisanship and vote choice

Dion Patrick Hoey, Fordham University


Since 1964, more women than men have voted for the Democratic presidential candidate. The purpose of this study was to examine the origins of the gender gap and to describe the way in which it has changed over the 10 elections from 1960 to 1996. Data from the American National Election Studies were used to evaluate two possible explanations: (1) issue salience---men and women think different issues are important and associate each of the two major parties with specific issues, and (2) policy preference---men and women view the same issues as important but differ in their views about which of the two major political parties is better equipped to deal with those issues. The issue salience explanation of the gender gap was not supported by the data. Although men typically had higher salience scores than women, the rankings for men and women were similar, which meant that the two genders viewed the same issues as important. Comparisons of men and women with respect to policy preference scores showed that women had a greater preference than men for Democratic policies. That support grew over the years and paralleled the increase in size of the gender gap. Thus, the data supported the policy preference explanation of the gender gap. The women's issues category was unique in that, from 1972 on, it increased in salience every year and was the only issue category to do so. Further, the women's issues category was the only one that consistently was more salient for women than for men. Surprisingly, voters who were concerned with women's issues tended to vote for the Republican candidate. Logistic regression analyses showed that, when other variables were taken into account, gender was never a significant predictor of vote choice but was superseded by policy, political, and some demographic factors (notably race). When separate analyses were carried out for men and women, all three of the possible predictors---policy, political, and demographic---were found to play some role. Thus, the gender gap in voting is best explained on the basis of a multifactor, rather than a single factor, explanation.

Subject Area

Political science|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Hoey, Dion Patrick, "The association of policy preferences and the gender gap in partisanship and vote choice" (2006). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3216915.