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Jewish World Review Oct. 31, 2000/ 2 Mar-Cheshvan, 5761

Samuel Silver

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The 'Gender Gap' explained: Robbing Peter & Paul to pay Mary! -- IF YOU THINK the gender gap in electoral politics is a recent phenomenon, think again. It began in 1870 and has continued to grow. In recent presidential elections from 1980 to 1996, the difference in voting patterns between men and women has been 14-17 percentage points with the exception of 1992, which had only a 5% “gap.” As we approach the 2000 presidential election, early opinion polls estimate a smaller than average gap, perhaps because George W. Bush understands the gender gap better than most.

Why is there a gender gap, and what implications does it have for our society? The gender gap is deeper and more complex than the few “women’s issues” commonly discussed in the media. At its root, it is more basic than gun safety, abortion, or tobacco. A recent study reported in the highly respected and peer-reviewed Journal of Political Economy helps us understand and quantify the gender gap. The paper, “Did Women’s Suffrage Change the Size and Scope of Government?” was written by John Lott, Jr. of Yale University and Lawrence Kenny of the University of Florida. Yes, this is the same John Lott that wrote More Guns, Less Crime.

The study concludes: “Giving women the right to vote significantly changed American politics from the very beginning. Despite claims to the contrary, the gender gap is not something that has arisen since the 1970’s. Suffrage coincided with immediate increases in state government expenditures and revenue, and these effects continued growing as more women took advantage of the franchise. Similar changes occurred at the federal level as female suffrage led to more liberal voting records for the state’s U.S. House and Senate delegations.” Of course, all women do not prefer bigger government. For example, if the gender gap is 16%, that would yield 58% liberal versus 42% conservative voting; thus 42% of women support conservative political policies. Therefore, for this analysis we are only interested in the group that votes differently at the margin.

Lott & Kenny hypothesize that a major reason women tend to vote for larger and more liberal government is women’s inherently higher aversion to risk. They concluded, “…the gender gap in part arises from women’s fears that they are being left to raise their children on their own. If this result is true, the continued breakdown of the family and the higher divorce rates imply growing political conflicts between the sexes.”

This fear is well known by the liberal/left wing of American politics. Susan Estrich, former campaign manager for Michael Dukakis’ Presidential campaign, states her new book, Sex & Power: “Bush is ahead among married women. Gore is strongest among those women who live alone and support their children. The promise of a safety net counts for more with those who don’t have a male version of one.”

One of the calamities of the 20th Century has been the successful attack on the traditional two-parent family. The “abolition of the family” and ending the dependence “of the wife upon the husband and of the children upon the parents” were specific goals of The Communist Manifesto! Marx and Engels failed unequivocally in Russia, but have continued to succeed in America through their current followers (conscious or subconscious) in academia, the media, and politics.

Traditionally women had a vast support system for their children, from husbands, to immediate family, to extended family, to church or synagogue, to community based charitable organizations. The left has worked to undermine these support mechanisms, replacing them with their “village,” otherwise known as centralized government, which by necessity they must control.

They have:

  • belittled and ridiculed religion and traditional values.

  • eliminated the shame and stigma of violating traditional Judeo-Christian values that were the bedrock of western civilization.

  • devalued marriage and minimized the harmful effects of divorce.

  • debased our language and art.

  • glorified the birth of children out of wedlock, especially those without male fathers in their lives.

  • replaced objective values and judgments with subjective, relativistic mush.

  • replaced right and wrong with anything goes.

  • replaced moral and rational thinking with amoral legalistic rules.

  • tried to eliminate boyhood and manhood.

  • claimed to be champions of tolerance, but have created a culture of intolerance by demonizing anyone who has ideas with which they differ.

  • not been satisfied with toleration of the 1-3% of Americans that practice homosexuality, but instead demand full acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle and political agenda.

  • replaced personal responsibility with no responsibility.

As a result, the left further increased women’s perceived need for centralized government to fill the voids they have created.

This study demonstrates that instead of the normal “transfer payment” program where the government robs Peter to pay Paul, enough women, at the margin, have voted for the government to rob Peter & Paul to pay Mary (after taking out 50-67% for “bureaucratic overhead”)! [See Appendix I at the end of this article for details on the Lott & Kenny study)

Another recent study adds even more ammunition to the case that the left is explicitly exploiting women. Have you ever wondered why the propaganda of the left wing and their supporters in the media seems so effective in shaping some women’s voting preference? Well, it appears that women, on average, know fewer facts about political issues. A new finding which is even more disturbing is that while women in the past were aware when they did not know the correct answer to a political question, they now think they do know the correct answer when in fact they don’t.

This is the conclusion of a study about the 2000 primary campaign by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. The study was titled, “The Primary Campaign: What Did The Candidates Say, What Did The Public Learn, And Did It Matter?” [See Appendix II at end of article for key excerpts from that report.]

Similar surveys of factual political knowledge were carried out in 1996 and 2000 by the researchers. During both campaigns men were more likely to answer questions about political issues correctly, but women and men reacted differently when they did not know the correct answer. In 1996 if women did not know the correct answers, they were more likely to say, “I don’t know.” In 2000, women were still more likely to answer more questions incorrectly, but were less likely to say, “I don’t know.” It is difficult to have a meaningful discussion with someone who doesn’t know that they don’t know what they think they know. Radical feminists have no problem with this scenario, as they do not believe in objective reality, logic, or rationality, which they label “phallocentric.”

In presenting the study, Knight Ridder Newspapers reported that researcher Kathleen Hall Jamieson explained one possible explanation is that women and men discuss politics differently. "Men talk with one another at work about politics," she said. "Women don't have that same socialization. It's a function of how women talk about politics."

Women tended to get more answers wrong than men, Jamieson said, regardless of age, race, income, education, marital status or party identification. One theme common to either gender, she said, is that the more people relied on local television news for information, the less informed they were. "Local news watching makes you dumber," Jamieson said.

This implies that women are more susceptible to propaganda, misinformation, the big lie, and political advertising/sound-bites – technical skills at which the left and Democratic Party excel. It has always been perplexing trying to understand why voters could believe some of the economic nonsense and outright lies put forward by the left, but if all they are exposed to is the television news sound bite with no rebuttal, it makes more sense. The local and/or network news will usually play favorable sound bites from Democrats, with no negative comments; while Republican sound bites are almost always surrounded by some type of negative comment or suggestion. For example, in the first Bush-Gore debate, most network news reports and commentators stated that Al Gore “won the debate on points”, but failed to mentioned that at least six of his points were either lies, exaggerations, or misleading statements. This was later discussed on news analysis shows, talk radio, and newspapers. However, if a person’s only source of news was the local television news with its national news feed from the networks, they would have the impression that Al Gore was the clear winner.

As a side note, this is another reason why government control of campaign financing would be a disaster for the country. Not only will it give a huge advantage to the incumbents of either party, but it will also make the use of propaganda through television news broadcasts even more controlling, as the party out of favor with the television media will not be able to take their message directly to the people.

As a believer in freedom, individual rights, property rights, and limited constitutional government, I think it is critical for our society to reduce the excess insecurity being foisted onto women by the culture and politics of the left. We must rebuild the traditional family values of our Judeo-Christian culture and heritage. It is also critical that we strengthen our non-coercive forms of aiding the weaker members of society, with emphasis on the free market and faith-based programs as the most moral and efficient alternatives to government control over our lives. If we do not stop this onslaught against the traditional family, the gender gap will continue to grow and unfortunately lead us further down the path to socialism.


“Did Women’s Suffrage Change the Size and Scope of Government?” by John Lott & Lawrence Kenny.

In their study, “Did Women’s Suffrage Change the Size and Scope of Government?” published in the December 1999 issue of the Journal of Political Economy, John Lott & Lawrence Kenny examined “the growth of government during this century as a result of giving women the right to vote.” They used cross-sectional time-series data for 1870-1940 to “examine state government expenditures and revenues as well as voting by U.S. House and Senate state delegations…” Since analysis of Federal expenditures versus women’s suffrage was not statistically viable, they used state government as a surrogate. There analysis confirmed that this was a valid surrogate. They also analyzed the correlation between women voting and the political makeup of Congress over this same period.

Since the states allowed women to vote at various times, this provided an excellent method to look at the correlation over a variety of time periods, thereby eliminating temporal effects. The first state to grant women voting rights was Wyoming in 1869. Twenty-nine states gave women the right to vote prior to passage in 1920 of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This granted the vote to women across the U.S. As part of their study, Lott and Kenny analyzed voter turnout by women and found that initially older women (45-64 years of age) participated at the greatest rate, and that it took up to 30 years for women’s voting participation rate to equal that of men. As a result, they expected any effects for the granting of the vote to increase over time.

The chart below provides a good overview of the method used and the strong correlation they found. The dates when the vote was granted in each state is standardized so that year 0 is the first year in which women were allowed to vote in that state. The values to the left along the bottom axis show the number of years before the vote was granted, and the values to the right show the years after voting commenced in each state. The vertical axis represents Real Per Capita State Government Spending & Revenue. The results are dramatic!

This chart shows that state governments grew dramatically after women received the right to vote. Within 11 years after suffrage was granted in the various states, the size of the state governments more than doubled. Lott & Kenny studied a variety of other variables to determine if this relationship was causative or if something else was going on concurrently. They concluded that “these differences are again quite statistically significant, and they strongly rule out the possibility that higher government spending simply arose because there was something that correlated with giving women the right to vote and a desire for greater government spending.”

To determine if this same affect could be measured at the federal level, they then analyzed the effects of women voting on the political direction of the Federal Senate and Congress. They used measures of congressional and Senate voting behavior from “legislative vote indexes” used in the field of political science. These indexes differentiated “conservative” and “liberal” legislators based on their voting records. For example, “conservative” legislators between 1870-1940 “consistently opposed increased government regulation, ranging from the Interstate Commerce Commission to the minimum-wage law” as well as greater government spending. The method of analysis was similar to the one for state government spending, and the results were just as dramatic. “The two consistent results were the following: allowing female suffrage resulted in a more liberal tilt in congressional voting for both houses, and the extent of that shift was mirrored by the increase in turnout due to female suffrage…. In the Senate, suffrage changed the voting behavior by an amount equal to almost 20 percent of the difference between Republican and Democratic senators.”

So women voting led to larger government, but the next question is why do women prefer big government at a higher rate than men. There have been a variety of theories proposed over the years for the difference in voting preference, which Lott & Kenny reviewed against their data. For example, in an earlier paper they had hypothesized that the cause of the pro-government voting record may be the ever-increasing employment of women by government at all levels; however, the data did not support this theory, and they rejected it.

The reason(s) for this difference is not obvious, but as it has existed over an extended period, it appears it may be due to a fundamental difference between men and women. Men and women were created equal, and they are equal under the law, but radical feminists notwithstanding, they are definitely different. For example, there is evidence in the financial and socio-biological literature that women are more risk averse than men. That is, they are generally less willing to take risks than men. It is this difference that the authors believe may be at the root of the difference.

Since divorced women have often not fared well in obtaining alimony and other support, and because women tend to have lower incomes, Lott & Kenny conclude, “they benefit more from various government programs that redistribute income to the poor, such as progressive taxation. Hence, single women as well as women who anticipate that they may become single may prefer a more progressive tax system and more wealth transfers to low-income people as an alternate to a share of a husband’s uncertain future income. Indeed, we have found (in an earlier paper) that after women have to raise children on their own, they are more likely to classify themselves as liberal, vote for Democrats, and support policies such as progressive income taxation.”

Therefore, that appears to be the answer. Some women have used the vote to reduce their financial risks in life through use of government power. In other words, we are robbing Peter & Paul to pay Mary.


Excerpts from: “The Primary Campaign: What Did The Candidates Say, What Did The Public Learn, And Did It Matter?” published by The Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania (March 2000).

“Since 1980, women have voted either at the same or at a higher rate than men. Why then do scholars consistently find that women answer fewer questions correctly about political affairs than do men? This finding is especially perplexing given that the status of women has changed substantially in the last fifty years. Educational attainment is now comparable between the sexes. There is greater female presence in the labor force. And, the number of women seeking political office has risen. Nevertheless, gender differences in political knowledge persist.

To ascertain if sex differences in political knowledge are present in the 2000 presidential primary campaign period, a political knowledge scale was composed of thirteen knowledge items that asked adults about the issue positions and backgrounds of Gore, Bradley, McCain and Bush. Using a national sample of adults interviewed between December 14, 1999 and March 13, 2000, statistical analyses were performed to determine the variables that predict political knowledge. Three outcomes were analyzed: (1) getting an item correct, (2) answering the question but selecting an incorrect answer, or (3) stating that one does not know an answer.

Prior research by Kenski and Jamieson (in press) of voters in the 1996 general election suggested that while there were sex differences in getting items correct and stating that one did not know an answer, there were no significant gender differences in selecting an incorrect answer. Men were more likely to get answers correct, and women were more likely to say that they did not know an answer to a question. In the 2000 presidential campaign, women were also more likely to answer questions incorrectly. These gender differences did not disappear when several sociodemographic variables, such as age, race, education, income, marital status, party identification, media exposure, etc., were controlled for.

The perplexing finding that women do not perform as well as men on political knowledge still persists in the year 2000. Prior research on the 1996 general election indicated that while men got political knowledge items correct more often that women and women said that they did not know the answer more often than men, there were no gender differences in selecting the incorrect answer. In the 2000 presidential primary, however, women are more likely to select the incorrect answer.”

Samuel Silver, a board member of Toward Tradition, writes from Greenville, Mississippi. Comment by clicking here.


09/05/00: Republican Inclusion: Truth or Illusion?

© 2000, Samuel Silver