One of the truisms of American politics for the past generation has been the “gender gap” whereby women tend to lean toward the Democrats and men toward the Republicans. This gap has become part of the background assumptions of American political commentary to the point that right-wing polemicist Ann Coulter has proposed restricting the vote to men. Though Coulter’s proposal is obviously ludicrous, there isn’t that much objection to the assumption she makes that women support the Left party and men the Right. That’s been empirically a valid judgment in the United States for the past generation. The problem is when pundits begin to create grand theories about how the Democrats and their liberal program are naturally the “Mommy Party” and the Republicans and their conservative plank the “Daddy Party.” I generally don’t buy it, because I read, and so when I was a teenager I read a paper which showed that if suffrage had been limited to men in the United Kingdom then almost every Conservative victory in the 20th century would have been overturned. A similar tendency also holds for Australia. This is not to suggest that men are naturally liberal, or women naturally conservative. Rather, it is to suggest that locally contingent conditions are important, and generalizing from one case might lead one astray. Since we Americans don’t know much about other nations we need to fall into this trap quite a bit.
Nevertheless, there are some interesting cross-cultural dynamics within the past generation worth noting. The Developmental Theory of the Gender Gap: Women and Men’s Voting Behavior in Global Perspective:
The analysis demonstrated that gender differences in voting behavior have been realigning in post-industrial societies. By the 1990s women voters in these nations proved significantly more leftwing than men, even after introducing a range of social controls. The modern gender gap in not confined only to the United States, as particularistic accounts suggest, but is also evident by the 1990s in some West European states. Nevertheless this pattern was not yet evident in post-communist societies or developing societies, where the traditional gender gap persists into the mid-1990s with women voters more rightwing than men. The main reason for the emergence of the modern gender gap in post-industrial societies, we argue, is that structural and cultural trends have transformed the values of the women, particularly among the younger generation. The conclusion summarizes the main findings and considers the implications for understanding women and men’s power at the ballot box and the process of cultural change.