Women and the future of gun policy

Given my recent heightened interest in gun policy and my longstanding interest in gender and public opinion I thought I should see what’s out there political science-wise on the matter.  It’s basically well-established that women are more liberal than men on gun control (and pretty much all use-of-force issues) so not all that much of recent vintage.  That said, came across this nice article from Tiffany Barnes and Erin Cassese that examines gender differences within parties.  I.e., of course with women being more liberal/Democratic overall they are more liberal on guns, so how much of this is about just partisanship and how much gender.  Short version– it’s a lot about gender.  Here’s the abstract:

Research on the gender gap in American politics has focused on average differences between male and female voters. This has led to an underdeveloped understanding of sources of heterogeneity among women and, in particular, a poor understanding of the political preferences of Republican women. We argue that although theories of ideological sorting suggest gender gaps should exist primarily between political parties, gender socialization theories contend that critical differences lie at the intersection of gender and party such that gender differences likely persist within political parties. Using survey data from the 2012 American National Election Study, we evaluate how party and gender intersect to shape policy attitudes. We find that gender differences in policy attitudes are more pronounced in the Republican Party than in the Democratic Party, with Republican women reporting significantly more moderate views than their male counterparts. Mediation analysis reveals that the gender gaps within the Republican Party are largely attributable to gender differences in beliefs about the appropriate scope of government and attitudes toward gender-based inequality. These results afford new insight into the joint influence of gender and partisanship on policy preferences and raise important questions about the quality of representation Republican women receive from their own party.

Interestingly, it fails to make any mention of guns in there.  Yet, guns were actually the biggest intra-party difference they found:

With respect to issues linked to violence and the use of force, Republican women (M = .20) are far more likely than Republican men (M = .54) to favor gun control, F(1, 5855) = 41.10, p < .001. This is the largest within-party gender difference (gender gap = .34) in our analysis…

Whereas Republican men and women hold significantly different positions on a number of issues, Democratic men and women have similar views for all but three issue areas. Women (M = −.46) are far more likely than men (M = −.17) to favor gun control, F(1, 5855) = 35.82, p < .001. As with Republicans, the gender gap on gun control is the largest within-party gender difference among Democrats.

Hmmm.  Interesting.  Among other things it very much suggests that any hope for saner (check that, less insane) gun policies in the future rest largely on getting more women in office.  And 2018 looks to be a good start for that.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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