The Social Roots of the Partisan Gender Gap

Posted: 18 Aug 2009

See all articles by Barry C. Burden

Barry C. Burden

University of Wisconsin - Madison


I suggest that the gender gap in party identification is dependent on question wording and asymmetric stereotypes about men's and women's partisan preferences. A survey experiment reanalyzes the gender gap by comparing the standard partisan battery to an alternative version that emphasizes feelings rather than thoughts. Bringing question wording into closer alignment with theory causes the gender gap to shrink. This happens in part because the “feel” questions find women to be less Democratic than did the “think” questions. Moreover, reduction of the gender gap occurs mostly among highly sophisticated women and not those usually susceptible to question wording effects. Contrary to popular wisdom, men and women appear to be more, not less, alike politically when feelings are primed.

Suggested Citation

Burden, Barry C., The Social Roots of the Partisan Gender Gap. Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 72, Issue 1, pp. 55-75, 2008, Available at SSRN: or

Barry C. Burden (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin - Madison ( email )

716 Langdon Street
Madison, WI 53706-1481
United States

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