Skip to main content

The Rise and Decline of “Gender Gaps” in Support for Military Action: United States, 1986–2011

  • Yuval Feinstein (a1)

In the past several decades, many scholars of public opinion in the United States have argued that American women are less likely than American men to endorse military action as a means to deal with international problems. Evidence for this “gender gap” has been found in studies of public opinion during major international conflicts (Bendyna et al. 1996; Wilcox, Ferrara, and Allsop 1993), as well as studies of longitudinal trends that examined pooled data sets from multiple conflict periods (Berinsky 2009; Burris 2008; Fite, Genest, and Wilcox 1990; Shapiro and Mahajan 1986). Researchers sometimes view men's generally greater rates of support for military actions as part of a more general “gender gap” phenomenon in U.S. politics, but the cumulative evidence has suggested that foreign policy issues and questions of peace/war generate the widest and most consistent gender gaps (see Holsti 2004, 209–10 for a review).

Hide All
Allison Rachel. 2011. “Race, Gender, and Attitudes toward War in Chicago: An Intersectional Analysis.” Sociological Forum 26 (3): 668–91.
Bedolla Lisa G., and Scola Becki. 2006. “Finding Intersection: Race, Class, and Gender in the 2003 California Recall Vote.” Politics and Gender (2) 1:527.
Bendyna Mary E., Finucane Tamara, Kirby Lynn, O'Donnell John P., and Wilcox Clyde. 1996. “Gender Differences in Public Attitudes toward the Gulf War: A Test of Competing Hypotheses.” Social Science Journal 33 (1): 122.
Berinsky Adam J. 2009. In Time of War: Understanding American public opinion from World War II to Iraq. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.
Brooks Deborah Jordan, and Valentino Benjamin A.. 2011. “A War of One's Own: Understanding the Gender Gap in Support for War.” Public Opinion Quarterly 75 (2): 270–86.
Burris Val. 2008. “From Vietnam to Iraq: Continuity and Changes in Between-Group Differences in Support for Military Action.” Social Problems 55 (4): 443–79.
Bystydzienski Jill M. 1993. “Women in Groups and Organizations: Implications for the Use of Force.” In Women and the Use of Military Force, ed. by Howes R. H. and Stevenson M. R.. Boulder, CO: L. Rienner.
Conover Pamela J. 1988. “Feminists and the Gender Gap.” The Journal of Politics 50: 9851010.
Conover Pamela J., and Sapiro Virginia. 1993. “Gender, Feminist Consciousness, and War.” American Journal of Political Science 37 (4): 1079–99.
Cook Elizabeth A., and Wilcox Clyde. 1991. “Feminism and the Gender Gap—A Second Look.” The Journal of Politics 53 (4): 1111–22.
Crenshaw Kimberle. 1989. “Demarginalizing the Intersetion of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics.” University of Chicago Legal Forum 140: 139167.
Eichenberg Richard C. 2003. “Gender Differences in Public Attitudes toward the Use of Force by the United States, 1990–2003.” International Security 28 (1): 110–41.
Eichenberg Richard C. 2012. “Women, War, and World Order: Gender Difference in Security Attitudes in Europe and the United States, 2002–2011.” SSRN Online Papers. (accessed August 26, 2017).
Eichenberg Richard C. 2016. “Gender Differences in American Public Opinion on the Use of Military Force, 1982–2013.” International Studies Quarterly 60 (1): 138–48.
Eisenstein Zillah R. 1993. The Radical Future of Liberal Feminism. Boston: Northeastern University Press.
Elder Laurel, and Greene Steven. 2007. “The Myth of ‘Security Moms’ and ‘NASCAR Dads’: Parenthood, Political Stereotypes, and the 2004 Election.” Social Science Quarterly 88 (1): 119.
Ellwood Davod T., and Jencks Christopher. 2004. “The Spread of Single-Parent Families in the United States since 1960.” KSG Working Paper No. RWP04-008. or (accessed August 26, 2017).
Erikson Robert S., MacKuen Michel B., and Stimson James A.. 2002. The Macro Polity. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Ferguson Michaele L. 2005. “‘W’ Stands for Women: Feminism and Security Rhetoric in the Post-9/11 Bush Administration.” Politics & Gender 1 (1): 938.
Ferguson Michaele L., and Marso Lori Jo. 2007. “W” Stands for Women: How the George W. Bush Presidency Shaped a New Politics of Gender. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Fite David, Genest Marc, and Wilcox Clyde. 1990. “Gender Differences in Foreign Policy Attitudes: A Longitudinal Analysis.” American Politics Research 18 (4): 492513.
Gries Peter H. 2014. The Politics of American Foreign Policy: How Ideology Divides Liberals and Conservatives over Foreign Affairs. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.
Higgins Tracy E. 2004. “Gender, Why Feminsits Can't (or Shouldn't) Be Liberals.” Fordham Law Review 72 (15): 1629–41.
Hill Collins Patricia. 1998. “It's All In the Family: Intersections of Gender, Race, and Nation.” Hypatia 13 (3): 6282.
Holsti Ole R. 2004. Public Opinion and the American Foreign Policy. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Huddy Leonie, Cassese Erin, and Lizotte Mary-Kate. 2008. “Sources of Political Unity and Disunity among Women: Placing the Gender Gap in Perspective.” In Voting the Gender Gap, ed. Whitaker Lois Duke. Champagne: University of Illinois Press, 141–69.
Huddy Leonie, Feldman Stanley, Taber Charles, and Lahav Gallya. 2005. “Threat, Anxiety, and Support of Antiterrorism Policies.” American Journal of Political Science 49 (3): 593608.
Jacobson Gary C. 2007. A Divider, not a Uniter: George W. Bush and the American People. New York: Pearson Longman.
Joslyn Mark R., and Haider-Markel Donald P.. 2007. “Sociotropic Concerns and Support for Counterterrorism Policies.” Social Science Quarterly 88 (2): 306–19.
Kaufmann Karen M. 2002. “Culture Wars, Secular Realignment, and the Gender Gap in Party Identification.” Political Behavior 24 (3): 283307.
Kaufmann Karen M. and Petrocik John R.. 1999. “The Changing Politics of American Men: Understanding the Sources of the Gender Gap.” American Journal of Political Science 43 (3): 864–87.
Kinder Donald R., and Kiewiet Roderick D.. 1979. “Economic Discontent and Political Behavior: The Role of Personal Grievances and Collective Economic Judgements in Congressional Voting.” American Journal of Political Science 23: 495527.
Kosterman Rick, and Feshbach Seymour. 1989. “Toward a Measure of Patriotic and Nationalistic Attitudes.” Political Psychology 10: 257–74.
Lizotte Mary-Kate, and Sidman Andrew H.. 2009. “Explaining the Gender Gap in Political Knowledge.” Politics & Gender 5 (2): 127–51.
McCabe Janice. 2005. “What in a Label? The Relationship between Feminist Self-Identification and ‘Feminist’ Attitudes among U.S. Women and Men.” Gender & Society 19 (4): 480505.
Nicholson Linda J. 1986. Gender and History: The Limits of Social Theory in the Age of the Family. New York: Columbia University Press.
Nincic Miroslav, and Nincic Donna J. 2002. “Race, Gender, and War.” Journal of Peace Research 39 (5): 547–68.
Norrander Barbara. 2008. “The History of the Gender Gaps.” In Voting the Gender Gap, ed. Whitaker L. D.. Champagne: University of Illinois Press, 932.
Norrander Barbara, and Wilcox Clyde. 2008. “The Gender Gap in Ideology.” Political Behavior 30 (4): 503–23.
Norris Pippa. 2003. “The Gender Gap: Old Challenges, New Approaches.” In Women and American Politics: New Questions, New Directions, ed. Carroll S. J.. Oxford University Press.
Peltola Pia, Milkie Melissa A., and Presser Stanley. 2004. “The ‘Feminist’ Mystique: Feminist Identity in Three Genderations of Women.” Gender & Society 18 (1): 122–44.
Powers Daniel A., Yoshioka Hirotoshi, and Yun Myeong-Su. 2011. “MVDCMP: Multivariate Decomposition for Nonlinear Response Models.” Stata Journal 11 (4): 556–76.
Ruddick Sara. 1980. “Maternal Thinking.” Feminist Studies 6 (2): 342–67.
Ruddick Sara. 1995. Maternal Thinking: Toward a Politics of Peace. Boston: Beacon Press.
Shapiro Robert Y., and Mahajan Harpreet. 1986. “Gender Differences in Policy Preferences: A Summary of Trends from the 1960s to the 1980s.” Public Opinion Quarterly 50: 4261.
Sears David O. 2001. “The Role of Affect in Symbolic Politics.” In Citizens and Politics: Perspectives from Political Psychology, ed. Kuklinski J. H.. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1440.
Tessler Mark, Nachtwey Jodi, and Grant Audra. 1999. “Further Tests of the Women and Peace Hypothesis: Evidence from Cross-National Survey Research in the Middle East.” International Studies Quarterly 43 (3): 519–31.
U.S. Census Bureau. 2015. “Families and Living Arrangements.” Figure CH-1. (accessed April 19, 2016).
Weedon Chris. 1999. Feminism, Theory, and the Politics of Difference. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.
Wilcox Clyde, Ferrara Joseph, and Allsop Dee. 1993. “Group Differences in Early Support for Military Action in the Gulf: The Effects of Gender, Generation, and Ethnicity.” American Politics Research 21 (3): 343–59.
Wilcox Clyde, Hewitt Lara, and Allsop Dee. 1996. “The Gender Gap in Attitudes toward the Gulf War: A Cross-National Perspective.” Journal of Peace Research 33 (1): 6782.
Wirls Daniel. 1986. “Reinterpreting the Gender Gap.” Public Opinion Quarterly 50 (3): 316–30.
Wittkopf Eugene R. 1990. Faces of Internationalism: Public Opinion and American Foreign Policy. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Politics & Gender
  • ISSN: 1743-923X
  • EISSN: 1743-9248
  • URL: /core/journals/politics-and-gender
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
Type Description Title
Supplementary Materials

Feinstein supplementary material 1
Online Appendix

 Word (19 KB)
19 KB


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 1
Total number of PDF views: 10 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 53 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 2nd November 2017 - 23rd November 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.