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Gender and Democratic Attitudes: Do Women and Men Prioritize Different Democratic Institutions?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 September 2019

Michael A. Hansen
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Agustín Goenaga
Lund University


Using the 2012 European Social Survey (ESS), this article provides the first comparative analysis of how conceptions of democracy differ between men and women in 29 countries, and how this relates to their overall satisfaction with and support for democracy. Women tend to consider less important those aspects of democracy that privilege male resources and power, such as representative institutions, political parties, and the media. Instead, women assign more importance to those aspects of democracy that are less prone to reproduce gender inequalities, such as those related to direct participation (i.e., referenda), public justification of government decisions, and the protection of social rights. These differences are small in size but are comparable to the effects of other individual-level characteristics such as income or education. Finally, gendered differences in conceptions of democracy are not associated with different levels of democratic support. Men and women are most supportive of democracy where they are able to develop differentiated views about which aspects of democracy are most important for them.

Research Article
Copyright © The Women and Politics Research Section of the American Political Science Association, 2019

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Authors are listed in reverse alphabetical order. Goenaga acknowledges funding from a ‘Society's Big Questions' research fellowship from the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities.



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