Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What Women Know

Men know more about politics than women.

At least that's what you'd think based on a zillion years of political knowledge research.  The sex variable is a consistent, significant predictor of political knowledge in its various traditional formats -- and almost always in such a way that men score higher than women.

But, as you may know, I love digging up the exceptions.  I've found a number of studies that attempt to explain this effect, and I've blogged about them.  Here's another (abstract here).  Quite simply, the gender gap disappeared or even reversed when the measure of political knowledge turned to the more "practical" aspects of the concept, such as benefits and services, rather than the mere recall of names.

Previous studies I've pointed to have shown women do better when they're asked about politicians or public figures who happen to be female rather than all male.  Also men tend to guess more than women, so they often get it right while women are more likely to say "don't know."  Depending on how you code your political knowledge index, this can make a difference.

But this latest study is interesting in that it looks at the kinds of knowledge.  And the authors also explore the consequences in terms of voting to the political left or right.  Neat stuff both from a methodological perspective and, I suppose, if you're a feminist scholar.

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