International Handbooks on Gender series
Edited by Jill Steans and Daniela Tepe
Chapter 28: Gender difference in attitudes towards global issues
One consistent finding in the public opinion literature is that gender is correlated with political attitudes and behavior. In this chapter, we examine cross-national gender differences in attitudes towards international affairs, focusing on attitudes towards war and the use of force, international institutions, and the relationship between gender difference and the political mobilization of women. Scholars have hypothesized that gendered variation in attitudes toward international affairs can be attributed to differences in the ways that men and women perceive threats and risk, to essentialist, biological differences, to a preference of women for consensual international decision making and to the level of political mobilization of women. We briefly review these hypotheses before assessing them with cross-national survey data. We close by assessing the quality of research on gender and public opinion and introduce an agenda for future research. With respect to threat, risk and violence, a consistent finding in the scholarly literature is that men and women differ in their attitudes towards war and the use of force. Conover and Sapiro report an interesting finding in their study of gender differences during the Gulf crisis and war of 1990/91: women in the United States (US) were more likely to exhibit a “fear of war” and to express what the authors call “isolationist” sentiments, that is, more likely to agree that “this country would be better off if we just stayed home and did not concern ourselves with problems in other parts of the world” (1993: 1088–1091).
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