The Gender Gap and Christians

This is a summary of “The Partisan Paradox: Religious Commitment and the Gender Gap in Party Identification’? by Karen M. Kaufmann, in Public Opinion Quarterly (Winter 2004), which I’m simply swiping from The Wilson Quarterly.

If religious voters are more conservative than others, and if women tend to be more religious than men, why is there a “gender gap” in national elections that leaves the women’s vote tilted toward the Democratic Party?

It could be that religious commitment influences the partisan leanings of only the most devout voters. But that’s not the case, according to Kaufmann, a University of Maryland political scientist who analyzed public opinion surveys from the four presidential elections between 1988 and 2000. Among the highly devout (as measured by such factors as weekly church attendance), the gender gap persists: 59 percent of men, but only 49 percent of women, identified with the Republican Party.

Perhaps religious commitment has a stronger effect on men than on women, making the men more conservative? No, says Kaufmann. On a range of issues…from defense policy to gay rights and other cultural issues…religious belief pulls men and women to the right in equal measures.

But that rightward shift still leaves a big gender gap on one question: attitudes toward the size and nature of the welfare state. Women, Kaufman says, “are simply more liberal than men on questions of social welfare.” And for many religious women, social welfare policies are a more important determinant of voting behavior than the hot-button cultural issues that are said to animate so many religious voters.

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9 Responses to The Gender Gap and Christians

  1. 1
    wookie says:

    Women, Kaufman says, “are simply more liberal than men on questions of social welfare.”? And for many religious women, social welfare policies are a more important determinant of voting behavior than the hot-button cultural issues that are said to animate so many religious voters.

    I’m curious if anyone else reads into that statement what I did on first reading:

    That in religion, women tend to be more compassionate than rigid, while men tend towards the opposite end of the spectrum (more rigid than compassionate). Which is interesting in that christianity as it is practiced and as it was developed historically tends to be very mysoginistic.

  2. 2
    SoulLight says:

    What I get from it is that women, being a group that has a tendency to have faed more oppression than men, are more likely to believe in a welfare state that tends to help the oppressed. It’s more likely to be due to those pesky social factors than anything innate to females.

  3. 3
    wookie says:

    While I will agree with you Soullight that there is a correlation, I don’t want that to imply causation.

    Besides, logically, if all females are oppressed socially, and all oppressed people are more supportive of systems that help the oppressed, then wouldn’t that conclude that all females are supportive of systems that help the oppressed?

  4. 4
    Amanda says:

    It is possible that women are more likely to be afraid that they will have to lean on welfare one day in case of divorce, widowhood or just abandonment when they get pregnant.

  5. 5
    FoolishOwl says:

    Does this factor in that not all religious groups are on the extreme right?

    For instance, I’ve done a fair amount of work around opposing the death penalty, and there are a lot of people involved who cite their religious beliefs as the basis of their opposition to the death penalty.

  6. 6
    Robert says:

    If religious voters are more conservative than others, and if women tend to be more religious than men, why is there a “gender gap”? in national elections that leaves the women’s vote tilted toward the Democratic Party?

    Because most of the non-religious women are Democrats.

    Say the female population is 50% religious, 50% non-religious. Of the religious, 70% are Republican and 30% are Democrats. Of the non-religious, 80% are Democrats and 20% are Republicans.

    The total female vote will skew 55-45 Democrat.

    The authors’ underlying premise that something needs to be explained only holds true if irreligious women don’t tend towards the Democrats. As far as I know, they do, and very strongly.

  7. 7
    Amanda says:

    Robert’s got it. Also, it does well to remember that many non-religious men skew towards the Republicans. Voting Republican doesn’t make you religious, which I think is important to remember in the post-election frenzy to turn us into a theocracy.

  8. 8
    zuzu says:

    Plus, support for Republicans is stronger among white evangelicals than other groups — for instance, even very religious blacks with socially conservative values still vote Democratic overwhelmingly.

  9. 9
    Lord Cerbereth says:

    Maybe women aren’t more religious than men?