Asking the Right Questions: A Framework for Developing Gender-Balanced Political Knowledge Batteries

Published date01 March 2023
Date01 March 2023
Subject MatterArticles
Political Research Quarterly
© 2022 University of Utah
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/10659129221092473
A significant body of work demonstrates the existence of
a gender gap in political knowledge, both in the United
States and around the world (Burns, Scholzman, and
Verba 2001; Delli Carpini and Keeter 1997, 1993; Dow
2009; Ferrin, Fraile, and Garcia-Albacete 2018; Fortin-
Rittberger 2016; Fraile 2014; Fraile and Gomez 2015;
Frazer and Macdonald 2003; Jerit and Barbaras 2017;
Kenski and Jameson 2000; Miller 2019; Sanbonmatsu
2003; Wolak and McDevitt 2011).1 Since political knowl-
edge is held in such high regard in democracies, any gen-
der gap in political knowledge is seen as a worrisome
signal that women are less engaged and less able to advo-
cate for their interests in society than are men (Delli
Carpini and Keeter 1997; Lau and Redlawsk 2006; Verba,
Burns, and Scholzman 1997; Verba and Nie 1972). These
concerns are not without consequence, as research finds
that women’s political participation is sensitive to knowl-
edge levels and that societal beliefs about women’s lower
levels of political knowledge creates an atmosphere that
can further depress women’s performance on knowledge-
related tasks (Ihme and Tausendpfund 2017; Ondercin
and Jones-White 2011).
In seeking to explain these gender gaps in knowledge,
scholars have considered a range of influences, from the
resources and life situations of women and men to pat-
terns of political socialization and levels of descriptive
representation in political life. An additional set of expla-
nations examines how the concept of political knowledge
is measured, uncovering evidence that the gender gap in
knowledge is, at least in part, the result of measurement
artifacts. Yet, while there is growing evidence that mea-
surement issues have some role to play in shaping the
gender gap in knowledge, there are fewer projects that
offer guidance on what scholars can do to avoid a bias
against women’s demonstration of knowledge. In this
paper, we contribute to the discussion of the gender gap
in political knowledge by proposing a strategy for schol-
ars to diversify their measures to allow for a fuller expres-
sion of what respondents know about a wider range of
political and governmental issues. We seek to offer spe-
cific recommendations for researchers on how to identify
items that achieve more balanced measures of political
knowledge. In employing gender-balanced measures of
knowledge, we identify evidence of higher levels of
1092473PRQXXX10.1177/10659129221092473Political Research QuarterlyKraft and Dolan
1Department of Political Science, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee,
Milwaukee, WI, USA
Corresponding Author:
Kathleen Dolan, Department of Political Science, University of
Wisconsin Milwaukee, 3210 N. Maryland Avenue, Milwaukee, WI
53211, USA.
Asking the Right Questions: A
Framework for Developing
Gender-Balanced Political
Knowledge Batteries
Patrick W. Kraft1 and Kathleen Dolan1
Gender differences in political knowledge are a well-known empirical finding in public opinion research. Scholars
working in this area have proposed various explanations for this phenomenon, often focusing on issues regarding the
format and content of factual knowledge batteries. Yet, there are surprisingly few works that focus on how scholars
might diversify the content of political knowledge measures to develop items that are less biased toward male areas of
expertise. In this paper, we propose an inductive framework to develop more gender-balanced knowledge batteries
by including political issues that are of particular relevance to women and women’s lives. Employing gender-balanced
measures of political knowledge reveal instances where women and men demonstrate equivalent levels of political
knowledge and higher levels of political interest and efficacy among women—engagement that is often masked by
conventional measures of knowledge.
political knowledge, gender gap, measurement, gender-relevant knowledge
2023, Vol. 76(1) 393–406

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT