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The Complexity Conundrum: Why Hasn't the Gender Gap in Subjective Political Competence Closed?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 July 2012

Melanee Thomas*
McGill University
Melanee Thomas, Room 414, Leacock Building, 855 Sherbrooke Street West, McGill University, Montreal QC, H3A 2T7,


Abstract. In the 1960s, the gender gap in subjective political competence was assumed to reflect women's lack of socioeconomic resources, their confinement to the domestic sphere and their gender role socialization. Since then, women have moved into the labour force in vast numbers and conceptions of gender roles have been radically altered under the influence of the feminist movement. Yet, the gender gap in subjective political competence persists. This paper uses the Canadian Election Studies (1965–2008) to analyze gender differences in subjective political competence across time. Not only is the association between affluence and subjective political competence weaker for women, but the effect of affluence has weakened over time for women but not for men. Few generational effects are found; this suggests that the politicizing role of feminist socialization is much weaker than had been anticipated.

Résumé. Depuis les années 1960, la littérature en science politique assume que l'écart entre les hommes et les femmes en matière de compétence politique subjective était dû au manque de ressources financières des femmes, à leur confinement à la sphère domestique et au rôle traditionnel que la société leur accordait. Depuis, les femmes ont intégré le marché du travail en masse et le contexte social a changé sous l'influence du mouvement féministe. Pourtant, l'écart entre les hommes et les femmes en matière de compétence politique subjective persiste. À l'aide des Études Électorales Canadiennes (1965–2008), cet article analyse les différences entre hommes et femmes en matière de compétence politique subjective à travers le temps. Les résultats montrent que non seulement le lien entre l'affluence économique et la compétence politique subjective est plus faible chez les femmes que chez les hommes mais que ce lien s'est affaibli au cours des années chez les femmes. De plus, peu d'effets générationnels sont constatés. Cela suggère que l'effet sur les attitudes politiques de la socialisation féministe s'avère beaucoup plus faible qu'anticipé.

Research Article
Copyright © Canadian Political Science Association 2012

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