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4 Soccer Moms, Hockey Moms, National Security Moms Reality versus Fiction and the Female Voter Chapman Rackaway A gap exists between men and women in political participation. This so-called gender gap, the difference in percentage of women and men who support a particular candidate or party, is largely a reflection of gender role differences. Men and women are different, and they vote accordingly. Women tend to favor the candidates of the Democratic Party and have for at least thirty years. Just as popular culture explores and magnifies gender differences, so does American politics. The gender gap has become a well-worn political cliché, moving beyond academic analysis and news assessments into popular culture. Although a gender gap exists in the electorate, pop culture portrayals make the gap seem more persistent and larger than it actually is. The differences between men and women on display in popular culture are often exaggerated for comic or shock value, but nevertheless their focus on parenting roles and differences can inform our views of men and women as political actors. In presidential politics, the gender gap has as much to do with the conflicting portrayals of motherhood and fatherhood as it does with stereotypes or political preferences. The Female Voter In the century since female suffrage was guaranteed by the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, female voting as a general trend has become an issue of great attention. Early voting studies did not pay attention to gender as a 75 76 Chapman Rackaway significant variable in the vote decision, focusing instead on sociopsychological factors or partisanship.1 An assumption that women would vote as their husbands did led to this oversight, but in time that stereotype would be challenged. Jeff Manza and Clem Brooks first noted the historical changes in voting trends and how female voting has evolved over time. While men began the era of female suffrage with much higher voting rates than women, by the 1980s the trend had reversed and women were more likely to cast a ballot than men were. Women also have significantly different value preferences than men do.2 Pointing to changes in family roles, women’s emergence in the workforce, and the rise of feminism, Manza and Brooks note that women do in fact vote differently from men, providing evidence for a gender-based gap in voting that emerges as a theme in other scholarship. Michael Lewis-Beck and colleagues trace the gender gap as a preference for candidates back to the original National Elections Studies that prompted The American Voter. In the 1960s, there was little gender gap. Lewis-Beck et al. point to social mores of the time, when men were considered heads of households and would hold sway over their wives’ political ideas. The male-female voting difference was minimal. In partisan terms, women were slightly more loyal to the Republican Party.3 Although Carol Mueller suggests that a gender gap has existed since the fight for women’s suffrage began, most see a significant shift among female voters as a late-twentieth-century occurrence.4 Valerie O’Regan, Stephen Stambough, and Gregory Thorson point to a shift occurring as women more fully began integration into the workforce in the 1960s.5 Karen Kauffman and Jon Petrocik look to the 1980 election as the true beginning of the gender gap, however. The authors point to Republican nominee Ronald Reagan’s stances on the Equal Rights Amendment and abortion rights, among others, as the pivotal elements that shifted the women’s vote both to be distinct from the male vote and to align with Democratic candidates.6 Others see the gender gap not as a function of changes in the female voting population but in a growing unanimity of male voters. Alternatively, Margaret Trevor points to gender differences based on socialization factors. Trevor claims that conventional wisdom that pointed to the Democratic Party making women’s issues a central component of their platforms in the 1970s is illusory because those women were socialized more toward Democratic issues in the first place.7 Similar to Manza and Brooks, Kauffman and Petrocik show that men and women prefer different policies, place different priorities on issues, and feel differently about social welfare policies. As men coalesced more around Soccer Moms, Hockey Moms, National Security Moms 77 conservative candidates, the gap between genders appeared. However, Kauffman and Petrocik believe that female voting was more consistent over time but men changed their voting behavior in the 1990s. There...


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