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Reinterpreting the Gender Gap

Daniel Wirls
The Public Opinion Quarterly
Vol. 50, No. 3 (Autumn, 1986), pp. 316-330
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2748721
Page Count: 15
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Reinterpreting the Gender Gap
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Abstract

This study offers an analysis of the recent political differences between women and men that contradicts the conventional description of the "gender gap" in American politics. Beginning with the 1980 elections, the differences between women and men in their opinions on political issues, in voting behavior, and in partisan identification frequently have been portrayed as a result of women's rejection of Reagan and of Republicans and conservative values and their attraction to more liberal political positions and to the Democratic party. This description is misleading and cannot explain the full spectrum of political behavior by the sexes in the 1980s. This analysis argues that the gender gap has been the result of unequal rates of defection by men and women away from liberal values and the Democratic party. Greater movement by men toward conservative position and the Republican party produced the gender gap. Consequently, the Republicans were never the potential victims but have always been the potential and actual beneficiaries of the gender gap.

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