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The Gender Gap in Political Discussion Group Attendance

  • Edana Beauvais (a1)

Although women and men enjoy formally equal political rights in today's democracies, there are ongoing gaps in the extent to which they make use of these rights, with women underrepresented in many political practices. The gender gap in democratic participation is problematic because gendered asymmetries in participation entail collective outcomes that are less attentive to women's needs, interests, and preferences. Existing studies consider gender gaps in voting behavior and in certain forms of nonelectoral politics such as boycotting, signings a petition, or joining a protest. However, almost no work considers gendered variation in discursive politics. Do women participate in small, face-to-face political discussion groups at the same rate as men? And does gender intersect with other identities—such as ethnicity—to impact attendance at political discussion groups? I use data from the Canadian Election Study 2015 Web Survey to answer these questions. I find that women are significantly less likely to attend small-group discussions than men and that ethnicity intersects with gender in some important ways. However, I find no evidence that other social attributes—poverty or the presence of young children in the home—suppress women's participation in political discussion groups more than men's.

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I thank Mark Warren and Andrew Owen for helping me develop this project, Dietlind Stolle (and the Centre for the Study of Democratic Citizenship) for support while I finished it, and the CES (2015) team of investigators who humored the variable suggestions that made it possible. I owe a debt of gratitude to the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research for funding my methods training through the Clogg and Henry “Hank” Heitowit scholarships. I thank the participants at the Canadian Political Science Association (2017), American Political Science Association (2017), séminaire à l'Université de Montréal (2018), Dan Westlake, and the anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and feedback. Finally, I thank Adam Enders for help with R. I am solely responsible for any remaining errors. This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

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