Political Scientist Mary-Kate Lizotte
’s new book, Gender Differences in Public Opinion: Values and Political Consequences
(Temple University Press, 2020) helps us to understand the concept of the gender gap in American politics and how this gap looks across a host of different policy areas. Lizotte examines four different policy umbrellas: the use of force, environmental policy, social welfare policy, and policy around issues of equality. Making use of American National Election Studies (ANES) data, the research in Gender Differences in Public Opinion
digs into these policy umbrellas to tease out distinctions within these policy areas, examining where the gender gap is broader and where it narrows, both in comparison to other issue areas and in context of the issues themselves. While the gender gap is often discussed during election cycles, particularly around presidential vote preferences and the different choices men and women make, Lizotte’s work is much broader and theoretically encompassing, arguing that there is a values gap between men and women and their thinking about policy, and this is connected, then, to their political choices. There is a need to better and more comprehensively explain the gaps (which do range in size) across policy areas and not analyze each particular distinction independently.
Lizotte posits that “values offer a novel and comprehensive approach to understanding gender differences in policy preferences.” Values, as such, reflect how an individual conceives of the proper role of the government in society. And thinking about different perspectives on values in this context, according to Lizotte’s thesis, helps to explain the gender gap and the way that it traces through different policy areas. Gender Differences in Public Opinion
teaches us how men and women approach policy and political decisions from different perspectives and how that surfaces in specific policy choices. Lizotte also explains that these policy choices are important for candidates and parties to consider—since they need to recruit both male and female voters in order to win elections, and they have to understand the basis for choices made by these voters.
Lilly J. Goren is professor of political science at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI. She is co-editor of the award winning book, Women and the White House: Gender, Popular Culture, and Presidential Politics
(University Press of Kentucky, 2012).