Minding the Black Gender Gap: Gender Differences in Public Opinion among Black Americans

Published date01 September 2021
Date01 September 2021
Subject MatterArticles
American Politics Research
2021, Vol. 49(5) 490 –503
© The Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1532673X211013462
The conventional wisdom in the literature on Black public
opinion has long been that racial group interests mobilize
African Americans to share similar political attitudes, values,
and policy preferences (Dawson, 1995, 2003). The underly-
ing presumption is that shared experiences of racial discrimi-
nation in the United States encourage African Americans to
employ racial concerns as a proxy for their own self interests.
As a consequence, there tends to be strong agreement among
Black citizens on a range of social issues including race-
based social policies, fiscal policy, and the role of govern-
ment. However, as has been revealed in recent studies,
the appearance of uniformity overshadows a considerable
amount of diversity within the African American community
(Greer, 2013; Smith, 2014; White & Laird, 2020; White
et al., 2014). Nevertheless, Black political and social move-
ments in the United States have typically been dominated by
cis-gendered Black men, forcing marginalized groups within
the Black community to subordinate their interests to their
broader racial concerns (Cohen, 1999).
Do Black women’s policy preferences differ from Black
men as a function of their racial, gendered, and class inter-
ests? In this paper, we examine how different policy
domains lead Black women to consider their respective
racial or gendered interests. And if gender differences in
social welfare policy positions exist, is this due to Black
women’s relative economic vulnerability compared to
Black men? Specifically, in the analysis, we explore
whether differences in preferences for social welfare are
facilitated by underlying economic disparities between
Black men and women. Employing data from the American
National Election Study (ANES) from 1980 to 2016, we
examine the policies that are more likely to activate racial
and gendered preferences among Black women. We dis-
cover that unlike affirmative action and government aid to
Blacks, which activate Black women’s racial consider-
ations, gender-oriented issues as well as social welfare poli-
cies provoke more gendered concerns. Nevertheless, the
differences in preferences on social welfare policies and—
to a lesser extent—women’s issues are mediated by income,
suggesting disparities in the economic standing of Black
women and men inform their varied support for each policy
area. Lastly, we find that Black women’s support for racial
and social welfare policies is significantly higher than that
of white women, white men and, in some cases, Black men.
This study advances the previous literature in several
ways. First, the existing literature on Black gender gaps in
public opinion does not address the role of income in
1013462APRXXX10.1177/1532673X211013462American Politics ResearchLizotte and Carey
1Augusta University, Augusta, USA
2University of North Texas, Denton, USA
Corresponding Author:
Mary Kate Lizotte, Augusta University, 1120 15th Street, Augusta,
GA 30904-4562, USA.
Email: mlizotte@augusta.edu
Minding the Black Gender Gap: Gender
Differences in Public Opinion among
Black Americans
Mary Kate Lizotte1 and Tony E. Carey Jr.2
There is little research examining the gender gap in public opinion among Americans of African descent. Amid emerging
evidence that Black men are more conservative than Black women, there is reason to believe there may be gender differences
in their policy preferences. We use the 1980-2016 cumulative ANES data to observe when racial and gender considerations
will be more salient for Black women in determining their policy preferences. We find no gender gap on race-based policies
suggesting racial group interests may be driving similar support among Black men and women. We do find gender differences
on women’s issues and social welfare policies. We attribute Black women’s support for women’s issues to their gendered
interests and demonstrate the gap in social welfare attitudes is mediated by their lower economic status relative to Black
men. Despite these differences, we discover that Black men and women support race-oriented and social welfare policies
more than either white men or women.
gender gap, Black public opinion, race gap

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