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Digging Deeper into the Gender Gap: Gender Salience as a Moderating Factor in Political Attitudes

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 June 2017

Amanda Bittner*
Memorial University of Newfoundland
Elizabeth Goodyear-Grant*
Queen's University
Department of Political Science, Science Building Room 2028, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's NL, A1B 3X9, email:
Department of Political Studies, Mackintosh-Corry Hall, 68 University Ave., Kingston, ON K7L


We know how sex (rather than gender) structures political preferences, but researchers rarely take into account the salience or importance of gender identity at the individual level. The only similar variable for which salience is commonly taken seriously is partisanship, for which direction and importance or strength are both considered imperative for measurement and analysis. While some scholars have begun to look at factors that may influence intragroup differences, such as feminism (Conover, 1988), most existing research implicitly assumes gender salience is homogenous in the population. We argue that both the content of gender identity (that is, what specifically is gender identity, as opposed to sex) as well its salience should be incorporated into analyses of how gender structures political behaviour. For some, gender simply does not motivate behaviour, and the fact that salience moderates the impact of gender on behaviour requires researchers to model accordingly. Using original data from six provincial election studies, we examine a measure of gender identity salience and find that it clarifies our understanding of gender's impact on political attitudes.


Nous savons comment le sexe (plutôt que le genre) structure les préférences politiques, mais les chercheurs prennent rarement en compte la pertinence ou l'importance de l'identité de genre au niveau individuel. La seule variable semblable pour laquelle la pertinence est généralement prise au sérieux est la partisanerie, dont l'orientation et l'importance ou la force constituent un impératif tant aux fins de la mesure que de l'analyse. Alors que quelques chercheurs ont commencé à explorer les facteurs susceptibles d'influer sur les différences intragroupes comme le féminisme (Conover, 1988), la plupart des recherches existantes considèrent implicitement que la pertinence du genre est homogène au sein de la population. Nous soutenons qu'il importe d'intégrer aux analyses de la manière dont le genre structure le comportement politique tant le contenu de l'identité de genre (c.-à-d. ce qu'est spécifiquement l'identité de genre par opposition au sexe) que sa pertinence. Pour certains, tout simplement, le genre ne motive pas le comportement; et le fait que la pertinence atténue l'impact du genre sur le comportement impose aux chercheurs d'adapter leurs modèles en conséquence. À l'aide des données originales provenant de six études d’élections provinciales, nous examinons une mesure de la pertinence de l'identité de genre qui clarifie notre compréhension de l'impact du genre sur les attitudes politiques.

Research Article
Copyright © Canadian Political Science Association (l'Association canadienne de science politique) and/et la Société québécoise de science politique 2017 

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