American Party Women

Published date01 March 2017
Date01 March 2017
AuthorTiffany D. Barnes,Erin C. Cassese
Subject MatterArticles
Political Research Quarterly
2017, Vol. 70(1) 127 –141
© 2016 University of Utah
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DOI: 10.1177/1065912916675738
Traditionally, women were more politically conservative
than men. Yet, in the early 1980s, women began realign-
ing, shifting to the left of men and reversing the gender
gap in developed democracies across the globe (Box-
Steffensmeier, De Boef, and Lin 2004; Inglehart and
Norris 2003). Today, women in the United States are
more likely to identify with the Democratic Party, vote
for Democratic Party candidates, and hold liberal posi-
tions on social issues. Although scholars have devoted
considerable attention to understanding the gender gap in
public opinion, existing research focuses almost exclu-
sively on average differences between men and women—
emphasizing women’s liberal tendencies and defining
women’s political identity almost entirely in liberal terms.
While women’s greater average liberalism is well estab-
lished empirically, approximately one in four women
identify with the Republican Party—a figure that trans-
lates into millions of American women who buck this lib-
eral trend (Deckman 2016). Because existing research
has focused on average differences between men and
women, we know little about sources of heterogeneity
among women.
Does the gender gap extend to the Republican Party,
with Republican women holding more liberal views
than their male counterparts? To date, most research
about Republican women has focused on the elite level,
investigating factors like party structure, activists and
donors, conservative women’s groups, and candidates for
political office (Cooperman and Crowder-Meyer 2015;
Thomsen 2015). Comparatively little research has consid-
ered the attitudes and issue preferences of Republican
women in the electorate.1 In recent years, the United
States has seen a rise in high-profile Republican women
running for office and the development of a conservative
women’s movement (Schreiber 2008, 2014). The surge in
conservative appeals to women, coupled with the increased
salience of and polarization on “women’s issues”—for
example, the Mommy Wars and the Republican War on
Women—requires that scholars revisit the conventional
wisdom about women’s political identities.
Building on the burgeoning body of research on parti-
san sorting, we develop expectations regarding the inter-
section between gender and party. Theories of partisan
sorting suggest that women and men sort themselves into
the party that best represents their views—such that the
675738PRQXXX10.1177/1065912916675738Political Research QuarterlyBarnes and Cassese
1University of Kentucky, Lexington, USA
2West Virginia University, Morgantown, USA
Corresponding Author:
Erin C. Cassese, Department of Political Science, West Virginia
University, 316 Woodburn Hall, Morgantown, WV 26506, USA.
American Party Women: A Look
at the Gender Gap within Parties
Tiffany D. Barnes1 and Erin C. Cassese2
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.
gender gap, partisanship, public opinion, policy attitudes, partisan sorting, values

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