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My Heart Says One Thing but My Head Says Another? Men, Women, and the Psychology of Partisanship in Britain

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 June 2011

Robert Johns
University of Essex
Kristi Winters
Birbeck, University of London
Rosie Campbell
Birbeck, University of London


The point of departure for this study is the recent work of Burden (2008) on the “gender gap” in partisanship in the United States. He shows that the preponderance of Democratic identification among women is partly a function of the measurement of party identification. When respondents were asked “Do you feel that you are” rather than, more traditionally, “Do you think of yourself as” a Democrat or Republican, the sex gap narrowed to statistical nonsignificance. Burden's explanation for this result lies in the psychology of partisanship. The traditional “think of yourself as” (or cognitive) question primes women to consider their partisanship as a social identity, which in turn activates the stereotypical association between women and the Democratic Party. The “feel that you are” (or affective) question encourages a deeper, more personalized response, rendering social identity less relevant and thereby nullifying the effect of that stereotype.

Research Article
Copyright © The Women and Politics Research Section of the American Political Science Association 2011

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