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The Gender Gap in voting behaviours

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  1. Introduction.
  2. The three phases gender-gap trend.
    1. The traditional gender gap and the dealignment.
    2. The realignment process and its paradox: The modern gender gap.
  3. A British/French approach of the phenomenon.
    1. The Great Britain case and the gender-generation gap.
    2. The French case and the opposition against Extreme Right.
  4. Conclusion.
  5. Annexes.
  6. Bibliography.

European women first acquired the right to vote in 1906 in Finland. After the First World War, women were given the right to vote in a certain number of European countries. In the UK, it was gained in two stages: first in 1918, it was initially given to married women, women householders and women university graduates aged thirty years or over. In France, General de Gaulle gave the right to vote to women by decree in 1944, after the Senate had blocked proposals aimed at enfranchising French women several times. Many hoped, and others feared that women would vote as a bloc, creating thus a distinctive ?women's vote?. During the post-war era, it was established in political science that women proved more rightwing than men. The ?gender gap? is a rather large phrase that can be used to refer to different phenomena, including divergences between men and women in turnout, political attitudes, social values, party identification and policy concerns. Concretely, we will focus on the difference in voting choice, which is certainly the most common usage. There can be divergences of behaviour between genders concerning a given issue or candidate. Gender may have a direct effect (for instance, if genders differ on their vision of ecology, this can influence their choice for Green parties), or an indirect effect on voting behaviour (lifestyles for example can make the voting choices diverge). It is not a fixed phenomenon, and the ?gender gap? has constantly moved, according to eras and countries. For instance, the trend is completely inversed in countries such as Netherlands, where women have always been more left-wing than men. But we decided to focus on western European countries, as it's obvious that the gender gap is linked to culture.

[...] II_ A British/French approach of the phenomenon If the gender gap trend as described above has been observed in many Western European countries, a cross-national study proves that significant differences emerge. Analysing the 1994 Eurobarometer (table allows comparing different countries. The measurement depends obviously on how parties are classified along the right-left scale. The analysis for the major parties shows striking cross-national variations. In Britain, Italy and France for instance, women are more right-wing than men, whereas in Netherlands, Denmark, the United States and Canada, they proved more left- wing than men in their voting choice. [...]

[...] Yet, even modest gender differences in the electorate can have a significant impact, indeed a decisive one. The precise reasons for this so called ?gender continue to ?remain a puzzle?[3]. It's obviously due to structural and cultural trends common to post-industrial societies. The traditional gender gap, reflecting a women's vote more conservative than the men's one, has been observed until the 1980's. At this era, a dealignment process was detected, the women's electoral behaviour becoming closer to the men's one. [...]

[...] The Great Britain case and the gender-generation gap The three phases gender-gap phenomenon is particularly obvious in Great Britain. The gender gap there is summarised as the difference between the two-parties vote lead among women and men, which is the most useful and convenient summary: Gender gap = Women Con - % Lab) minus Men Con - % Lab) A positive gender-gap signifies then that women are more right-wing than men, whereas a negative one indicates they are more left-wing. [...]

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