The Journal of Politics

Original Articles

Complexities of the Gender Gap

Susan E. Howella1 and Christine L. Daya1

a1 University of New Orleans, New Orleans, LA 70148.


Gender differences in political attitudes among whites arise from a variety of sources that may vary from issue to issue. Explanations based on gender-based social roles, basic value differences, socioeconomic status, and women's autonomy are tested in this study through an examination of both compositional and conditional effects. Compositional effects occur when men and women differ on an explanatory variable. Conditional effects occur when a variable has differential effects on the policy preferences of women and men. Using data from the 1996 National Election Study, OLS regression and logit results demonstrate the complex sources of gender gaps across issue areas. Some factors such as education have more of a liberalizing effect on women, while such factors as religiosity have more of a conservatizing effect on men. Overall, issue gender gaps arise both from women's cultural role and from women's increasing autonomy from men.

(Online publication March 25 1999)

(Received November 09 1999)