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date: 30 March 2017

Organizing American Politics, Organizing Gender

Abstract and Keywords

This article describes the gender differences in mass behavior and candidacy. It also needs to ask: when does American politics organize gender? Perhaps the most common theoretical foundation underlying research on gender and behavior is the idea that gender differences in interests may lead to gender differences in voting behavior. The existence of gender differences depends on what aspect of behavior is examined, at what point in time, and whether men and women are compared at the individual or aggregate level. Gender differences are often small or non-existent, which would seem to suggest that gender is not a central dividing line in American politics. The mobilization studies that identify politics as a source of gender differences in political behavior are described. It then suggests new areas for research with two brief examples.

Keywords: gender differences, American politics, mass behavior, candidacy, voting behavior, mobilization

Do you think that people who are voting on the basis of gender solidarity ought to be allowed to vote in a perfect world? Of course they shouldn't be allowed to vote on those grounds. That's moronic. I'm sorry, I [could] get bounced off the air for saying it. But it's true.…I'm merely saying the obvious, that you shouldn't vote for her [Hillary Clinton] because she's a woman.

Tucker Carlson, October 15, 20071

The 2008 presidential campaign featured a prominent role for both candidate and voter gender. US Senator Hillary Clinton, the frontrunner for most of the Democratic primary, made a concerted appeal to women voters and campaigned on the (p. 416) potential of becoming the country's first female president. Clinton's pollster Mark Penn predicted that she would attract a large number of Republican women voters in the general election. The other Democratic primary candidates disputed the idea that Clinton was the natural choice of women voters, though polls revealed that more women than men supported her. Some critics denigrated Clinton's appeals to gender solidarity and argued that voters should not base their decision on a candidate's gender, while others argued that Clinton's failure to attract more women voters was a problem for her campaign.

To what extent do men and women behave differently in politics? When does gender organize American political behavior? These are familiar questions about the role of gender in elections. But the 2008 case—which featured the most competitive presidential bid by a woman in US history—was unusual in many respects. The election reminds us of how much we do not yet know about how gender organizes American politics. For example, pre‐election polls failed to anticipate Clinton's success in the New Hampshire primary and the unprecedented gender gap that fueled her victory.

I consider gender to organize American politics when there is evidence of gender difference at either the individual or aggregate level, although a focus on difference is not the only way that gender could be said to organize politics.2 It would be a mistake to assume that the absence of gender difference at the individual level means that gender is unrelated to political behavior; as Nancy Burns (2007, 105–6) has argued, gender can be more difficult to observe at the individual level than at the aggregate level because gender is constructed at the aggregate level.3

I focus this review chapter on gender differences in mass behavior and candidacy. Past studies have yielded sufficient evidence of gender differences in political behavior that we can think beyond the commonly asked question “Do men and women behave differently?” to ask broader, over time, and aggregate‐level questions about when men and women behave differently.4 Questions to orient (p. 417) future scholarship, then, are: when does gender organize American politics? Under what conditions does gender structure political behavior and elections? And why? Behavior scholarship has already become more attentive to these questions about context, as I discuss in the coming pages.

At the end of the chapter, I argue that we also need to ask: when does American politics organize gender? Past research has treated gender as a social difference that originates outside and prior to politics, asking whether this social difference matters in the political sphere. We typically assume the existence of two social groups—men and women—and ask whether the two groups behave similarly or differently in politics. This approach regards gender as a characteristic that individuals possess. However, we can view gender as a set of social relationships and practices that are partially created within the political sphere. We can treat gender as a political category rather than, or in addition to, a social category. By political category I mean that the category of gender is at least partially created and reproduced by politics.

Thinking about gender in this way—as a category that can be shaped by politics rather than as a purely social category with consequences for politics—suggests a somewhat different research agenda than that typically pursued by behavior scholars.5 Scholars can ask whether elections help create gender as a category in addition to asking whether the social category of gender is cued in politics. Political behavior and elections themselves may shape beliefs about gender, instructing society about what men and women are like, as well as what they should be like (Carroll 1999, 2006a; Duerst‐Lahti 2006). Politics may help define gender, imbuing the category of gender with particular meanings. Thus, perhaps American politics helps make men and women groups.

Organizing American Politics: Gender Differences in Political Behavior

Perhaps the most common theoretical foundation underlying research on gender and behavior is the idea that gender differences in interests may lead to gender differences in voting behavior. Virginia Sapiro (1981) argues that women have (p. 418) unique interests originating in their shared social position that require political representation. For example, men and women are likely to have different interests because of different domestic responsibilities, relationships to children and child care, types of jobs, and resources. Indeed, public opinion studies find that women tend to be more liberal on “compassion” issues such as helping the poor and spending on social welfare, more liberal on racial issues, and more hesitant to use force abroad (Seltzer, Newman, and Leighton 1997; Shapiro and Mahajan 1986). Women tend to be more supportive of an activist role for government, to be more religious than men, more opposed to capital punishment, and more supportive of gun control. Men and women often hold similar views on gender‐related issues, but those issues are usually more important to women.

Since women won the right to vote in 1920, observers and scholars have scoured election results for evidence of a women's voting bloc—a bloc feared by some suffrage opponents and anticipated by some suffragists. Indeed, the threat of a women's vote assisted the congressional lobbying efforts of women's organizations in the 1920s (Mueller 1988). Yet, a women's voting bloc failed to emerge and women's collective influence declined as a result. It would not be until the 1980 presidential election that the existence of a gap became widely known and became a “generalized political resource” for women's influence (Mueller 1988, 18). Between 1980 and 2004 the gender gap in presidential elections ranged from 4 to 11 points (Carroll 2006b). In 2004, for example, 48 percent of women and 55 percent of men voted for George W. Bush. The effect of gender persists in multivariate analysis after taking demographic factors into account (Huddy, Cassesse, and Lizotte 2008).

A gap in partisan identification can explain much of the presidential voting gender gap (Kaufmann and Petrocik 1999; Kenski 1988). Women had been somewhat more likely than men to prefer the Republican party in the 1950s (A. Campbell et al. 1960; Kaufmann and Petrocik 1999; Norris 2003). Since the 1960s women have largely remained Democratic while men have been more likely to shift to the Republican party (Kaufmann and Petrocik 1999; Kenski 1988; Wirls 1986). Women voters are also less likely to identify as independents (Norrander 1997).

Gender gaps are often larger in races featuring Democratic women candidates than in races with Democratic men, while races featuring Republican women candidates have yielded smaller gaps than races with Republican men (Carroll 2006b; Seltzer, Newman, and Leighton 1997). Individual‐level analysis also reveals that women vote for women, though the results depend on the year, level of office, and party (Brians 2005; Dolan 2004; Plutzer and Zipp 1996). Meanwhile, African–American female voters are the strongest supporters of African–American female candidates (Philpot and Walton 2007).

It is common to emphasize gender difference (Epstein 1988), but the magnitude of gender differences should not be overstated (Sears and Huddy 1990; Seltzer, Newman, and Leighton 1997). Gender is not usually viewed as an important factor (p. 419) in American politics whereas the centrality of race is widely recognized (Burns 2007; Ritter 2008). One reason that the category of gender is believed to be less important than race is that women as a group do not exhibit the same level of group‐based voting behavior as African–Americans (Seltzer, Newman, and Leighton 1997; Tate 1994). Racial inequality is also more visible because of racial segregation whereas gender hierarchies, which cumulate over time, are often less visible (Burns 2005; 2007, 106–7). In addition, women and men are larger groups than racial and ethnic minorities. In general, women as a group tend to exhibit less group consciousness than other groups such as African–Americans (Burns, Schlozman, and Verba 2001; Gurin 1985).

Analyzing gender in isolation suggests that there is a common essence to being a woman. Yet gender intersects with other identities such as race and class (Spelman 1988). A singular focus on gender will be inadequate to capture the relationship between gender and politics if gender, race, and ethnicity are mutually constitutive (Hancock 2007; Hardy‐Fanta 2006; Smooth 2006; Weldon 2006). Instead of viewing women as a cohesive group, it may be more accurate to recognize that women are politically fragmented (Sears and Huddy 1990). Both men and women can be categorized by factors other than gender, such as race/ethnicity, religion, occupation, partisanship, and ideology.

One possible explanation for why we do not observe more or larger gender gaps is that such gaps are conditional. Women arguably need to be aware of their interests as women in order to act on them (Miller et al. 1981; Sapiro 1981). Philip Paolino (1995) argues that salient events may explain why women seek group representation.

More persistent than the voting behavior gap is the gender gap in political participation (Andersen 1975; Andersen and Cook 1985; Beckwith 1986; Burns, Schlozman, and Verba 2001; Welch 1977). Women are less likely to be affiliated with a political organization, contact a government official, work informally in the community, and give money to politics, and women give less money to politics than men (Burns, Schlozman, and Verba 2001). Women tend to be less interested in and knowledgeable about politics than men (Delli Carpini and Keeter 1996; Verba, Burns, and Schlozman 1997)6 and tend to participate on somewhat different issues (Burns, Schlozman, and Verba 2001; Goss and Skocpol 2006).

The participation gap is not large, however. Nancy Burns, Kay Lehman Schlozman, and Sidney Verba (2001, 2) find on an eight‐point scale of participatory acts that women participate on average in .31 of a political act less than men. In some areas of political participation, no significant gender gap is evident (Burns, Schlozman, and Verba 2001). The gender gap also tends to be smaller than other gaps, such as racial (p. 420) or ethnic differences (Verba, Schlozman, and Brady 1995). In addition, the participation gender gap has reversed direction in one case: since 1980 women's voter turnout has exceeded that of men (CAWP 2004; Kenski 1988).

In sum, the existence of gender differences depends on what aspect of behavior is examined, at what point in time, and whether men and women are compared at the individual or aggregate level. Gender differences are often small or non‐existent, which would seem to suggest that gender is not a central dividing line in American politics. Yet gender differences in political behavior are too common and persistent to ignore (Sapiro and Conover 1997).

The Political Origins of Gender Differences in Political Behavior

Studies have generally assumed that gender differences in politics have a social basis. But gender differences in political behavior may have political origins in addition to—or instead of—social origins. For example, the exclusion of women from the vote by law meant that gender defined the electorate. Male suffrage created a second gender difference in political behavior: because women did not have the vote, they pioneered a new form of political participation in interest group politics (Clemens 1997; Cott 1987; Skocpol 1992). Women's success in obtaining the vote did not end the association of gender with political activity; instead, politics continues to convey messages to voters about the appropriate relationship between political participation and gender. In this section, I focus on mobilization studies that identify politics as a source of gender differences in political behavior.

The presence of women candidates and officeholders is expected to close the traditional gender gap in political engagement and participation by mobilizing women voters. Kathleen Dolan summarizes the logic: “The signals of openness, legitimacy, and identity sent by the presence of women candidates can, in turn, stimulate activity and engagement on the part of those members of the public heartened by an increasingly democratic and representative candidate pool” (2006, 688). Women are expected to respond to the presence of women candidates, but a narrowing of the gender gap could result from a decline in men's engagement or participation (Hansen 1997). Indeed, Burns, Schlozman, and Verba (2001) find that the gap in psychological engagement with politics closed with the presence of women candidates or elected officials. Other studies reach more ambiguous conclusions, however (Dolan 2006; Lawless 2004). The symbolic effect of women elites appears to be conditional rather than fixed (Atkeson 2003; D. E. Campbell and Wolbrecht 2006; Dolan 2006; Hansen 1997; Sapiro and Conover 1997).

(p. 421)

Political elites and parties may consciously seek to mobilize voters on a gender basis, which may explain why the gender gap varies over time and place. The decisions of women candidates to emphasize their gender and appeal to women voters is one example of a gender‐based mobilization strategy. But a gender strategy is not solely the province of women candidates. The potential to mobilize voters on the basis of gender exists in any election. As McConnaughy has recently argued, behavior scholarship could move beyond a goal of explaining specific elections to think about systematic processes and model “how long‐run gendered political processes unfold over time at both the macro and micro levels” (2007, 383). Similarly, Nancy Burns (2007, 105) argues for the study of “when social and political contexts can make gender relevant” by using “a research design centered on comparison across contexts—different states, different years, different electoral campaigns.” Burns asks if there are “ ‘electoral temptations’ of gender” that are similar to the use of race in elections, and calls for “an explicitly political model of citizen mobilization and demobilization around gender” (Burns 2007, 117).7

Scholars are already beginning to turn their attention to politics in order to understand when gender is related to political behavior (Box‐Steffensmeier, DeBoef, and Lin 2004; Kaufmann 2002). Gender gaps in vote choice are conditional and at least partly a function of campaigns, rather than an inevitable consequence of gender differences in interests (Ondercin and Bernstein 2007). Brian F. Schaffner (2005) finds that Senate campaigns that feature women's issues affect the vote choices of women but not men.

Few studies have investigated when and why elites choose to use gender as a basis for mobilization. In her study of women's enfranchisement, Anna L. Harvey (1998) argues that because parties sought to mobilize women first—before women's organizations—it would be several decades before another opportunity would emerge for women's organizations to direct women's electoral loyalties. Schaffner (2005) finds that candidate decisions about when to campaign on women's issues and target women voters are related to state public opinion and past electoral gender gaps.

Though elites may seek to induce political behavior structured on gender lines, they may also seek to prevent it. Early in the twentieth century, for example, male party leaders insisted on party loyalty and discouraged party women from forging a gender‐based solidarity (Freeman 2000). Thus, elites may denigrate the idea of gender‐based politics. Moreover, elite decisions about mobilizing men and women may depend on their beliefs and strategic decisions about mobilization on other bases, such as class and race (McConnaughy 2004; Ritter 2008). The decision to not mobilize on the basis of gender would seem to be as important as the decision to mobilize on gender.

(p. 422) Gender Differences: Candidacy and Officeholding

Even larger than the gender gaps in participation and mass behavior are gaps in candidacy and officeholding. Upon winning the right to vote, women did not automatically have the right to hold office in all places (Andersen 1996). Indeed, relatively few women sought or held office in the early part of the twentieth century. The number of women candidates and elected officials grew slowly over subsequent decades. But increases over time in women's representation have not been inevitable; as Susan J. Carroll (2004, 396) has argued, “there is no invisible hand at work to insure that more women will seek and be elected to office with each subsequent election.”

Women's officeholding is at its zenith today. Yet women remain underrepresented compared to their presence in the population. Women today hold 17 percent of congressional seats and men 83 percent; women hold 24 percent of state legislative seats and men 76 percent (CAWP 2009b, 2009c). In the history of the US Congress, only 2 percent of legislators have been women.8 A woman has never been president or vice‐president. Only thirty women have ever served as governor (CAWP 2009a). The gender imbalance in officeholding reflects a gender imbalance in candidacy (Lawless and Pearson 2008; Sanbonmatsu 2006c).

Today, women are no longer believed to be disqualified for office simply because of gender. In the 1930s, only 33 percent of the public expressed willingness to vote for a woman for president compared to today's polls revealing that an overwhelming majority is willing to support a woman (“Clinton vs. Obama?” 2007; Jones and Moore 2003). Moreover, election results demonstrate that women are no longer at an automatic disadvantage and are advantaged in some cases (Burrell 1994; Clark et al. 1984; Darcy and Schramm 1977; Lawless and Pearson 2008; Seltzer, Newman, and Leighton 1997).

It would be premature to conclude that gender is completely unrelated to electoral success, however. For example, women congressional candidates tend to face more primary competition than men (Lawless and Pearson 2008; Palmer and Simon 2006). Women candidates appear to be more sensitive to strategic considerations—perhaps because they anticipate gender discrimination (Fulton et al. 2006; Pearson and McGhee 2004). Meanwhile, women Democratic members of Congress tend to represent more liberal, urban, racially diverse, and wealthier districts than men Democrats, and Republican women represent more liberal and more electorally marginal districts than their male counterparts (Evans 2005; Palmer and Simon 2006). We also know that women state legislators are not randomly distributed across the United States. (p. 423) For example, in Colorado, the state with the highest level of women's representation, women are 38 percent of the legislature; the state with the lowest level, 10 percent, is South Carolina (CAWP 2009b).

In order to explain the gender gap in officeholding, much attention has focused on the scarcity of women candidates (Burrell 1994; Dolan 2008). Women are underrepresented in the supply of candidates, or the social eligibility pool. Women have been less likely to be in the occupations from which men have tended to launch their political careers, such as law and business (Darcy, Welch, and Clark 1994). For much of the twentieth century, women ran for office who were housewives or widows of officeholders, or who had backgrounds in female‐dominated occupations (Carroll and Strimling 1983; Gertzog 1995; Kirkpatrick 1974). Women continue to come from a more diverse set of occupations than men, although the paths that men and women take to public office have converged in recent decades (Burrell 1994; Dolan and Ford 1997; Gertzog 1995, 2002; Sanbonmatsu 2006b; Thomas 1994).

The Political Origins of Gender Differences in Candidacy and Officeholding

Much scholarly attention has focused on the social factors that contribute to women's descriptive underrepresentation, including voter attitudes, the presence of women in the social eligibility pool, and the willingness of women to seek office. But political factors also explain the gender distribution of officeholders and candidates. Incumbency represents an institutional hurdle to women's representation because most incumbents are men and incumbents are highly likely to win reelection (Burrell 1994; Carroll 1994; Darcy, Welch, and Clark 1994; Fox 2006). Elections with a greater number of open seats—such as the 1992 so‐called “Year of the Woman”—are known to provide opportunities for newcomers such as women. And women fare better in states where legislators are elected from multi‐member rather than single‐member districts (Carroll 1994; Darcy, Hadley, and Kirksey 1997; Darcy, Welch, and Clark 1994; Diamond 1977; Norrander and Wilcox 1998; Rule 1981, 1990; Werner 1968).

In addition, the mere fact of women's descriptive underrepresentation can communicate to voters and women potential candidates that officeholding may not be appropriate for women.9 Men and women also seek different types of elective office. Some types of offices are “feminine,” or more in keeping with (p. 424) women's traditional areas of expertise and others are more “masculine” and more likely to be held by a man, such as the presidency (Duerst‐Lahti 2006; Fox and Oxley 2003).

Political sources of the gender imbalance in officeholding can also be found in some studies of recruitment. If parties do not believe that women can win, or if women party leaders—who are more likely to know women potential candidates—are scarce, then parties will be less likely to recruit women (Niven 1998; Sanbonmatsu 2006a, 2006d; but see Burrell 1994; Caul and Tate 2002; Darcy, Welch, and Clark 1994). Lawless and Fox (2005) find that women potential candidates are less likely to receive the suggestion to run and that they tend to underestimate their qualifications for office.

Thus, recent behavior scholarship has looked to politics in order to understand when gender differences occur, finding that various actors can politicize gender and induce gender‐based behavior. Meanwhile, the presence—or absence—of women in politics conveys information to agents of recruitment, voters, and women potential candidates about the appropriateness of women's officeholding and the viability of women candidates. These studies identify political conditions—rather than social conditions alone—that can create gender gaps in political behavior and elections.

Organizing Gender

The relationship of gender to politics may be even more complex. Future research should consider the possibility that American politics can organize gender—and not just that gender can organize American politics. American politics may help create—rather than merely cue—gender. In this section, I suggest new areas for research with two brief examples.

The conventional wisdom is that as more women run for and are elected to office, the public should become more accepting of women in politics and elect more women. Because most politicians are men, voters usually picture a man when they picture a politician. Therefore, a rise in the presence of women in office and in different types of offices—perhaps offices that were not previously held by women—is expected to change voter expectations about what a typical politician looks like.

But the gender imbalance among politicians may convey a wider meaning—beyond beliefs about politicians. The gender gap in candidacy may contribute to public beliefs about the leadership ability and personality traits of men and women (p. 425) in society, thereby helping to construct gender (Eagly 1987).10 As Jane Mansbridge (1999, 649) explains:

the presence or absence in the ruling assembly…of a proportional number of individuals carrying the group's ascriptive characteristics shapes the social meaning of those characteristics in a way that affects most bearers of those characteristics in the polity.…Low percentages of Black and women representatives, for example, create the meaning that Blacks and women cannot rule, or are not suitable for rule.

According to Mansbridge, then, observing a preponderance of men in elective office may convey the social message that women as a group are not able to rule. Women's underrepresentation in politics may instruct the public about the characteristics of men and women in society, and not just the characteristics of men and women in politics.

If true, one implication is that there may be more inertia in the underrepresentation of women than we previously thought. Even if there are gains for women in elective office, if an overall gender gap in officeholding persists, social beliefs about men and women may not change; the gender imbalance in officeholding may continue to “teach” society that men as a group are more likely to have the skills necessary for politics. The persistence of social beliefs about differences in the nature of men and women is likely to continue to reproduce the gender gap in officeholding. The public could come to believe that some women have the right traits for public office while continuing to believe that women in general are less likely to have those traits than men.

Such a dynamic might help explain the persistence of the belief that men are more emotionally suited for politics than women (Sanbonmatsu 2002). It might also help explain the persistence of differences across the American states in women's officeholding. We typically assume that social beliefs about women's roles explain cross‐state variation in women's officeholding. But perhaps the level of women's representation in a state instructs the public about women's abilities and nature.

These types of questions point to the need for research on what the public learns about men and women in society from the gender distribution of candidates and officeholders. Scholars could investigate this question empirically with experimental, panel, or longitudinal analysis in order to tease out the causal relationship between women's descriptive representation and social beliefs.

(p. 426)

Politics can also organize gender through elite messages. We have already seen that elites' strategic choices about mobilization are related to the presence or absence of gender gaps in political participation. In addition, elite messages and mobilization strategies may influence voters' beliefs about gender and the existence of gender‐based interests. If social beliefs about men and women are shaped by elite mobilization strategies, then those strategies may have more extensive and longer lasting effects than we originally thought. For example, we ordinarily consider gender to be exogenous to campaigns. However, if campaigns help to create the social meaning of gender, campaigns may have longer‐lasting effects on the electorate—beyond the existence of gender differences within one election cycle. Likewise, the decisions of elites to not mobilize along gender lines may help to empty the category of gender—making it less likely that voters perceive men and women to be social groups with distinct interests.

These questions suggest the need for research on the content and effect of elite messages in order to determine if elections are creating and reproducing gender as a category. How do candidates view the electorate? Do elites seek to mobilize women or men on the basis of gender? On the basis of motherhood or fatherhood? Do they seek to mobilize women as a disadvantaged group? Do these messages and mobilization strategies affect the public's beliefs about men and women?

These questions about the construction of gender call for theoretical and empirical innovation. They also suggest that there is more endogeneity in the relationship between gender and politics than we originally thought. For example, any group‐based response of women to women candidates may arise because of women's historic underrepresentation in American politics, rather than from a feeling of solidarity or identification that originates prior to or outside of politics. In sum, there is much to be gained by examining how and when politics organizes gender.


The role of gender in shaping political behavior is perhaps most obvious when we observe gender gaps at the aggregate level. Scholars have made considerable progress in identifying the ways that gender organizes American politics. We know that political factors can help explain when gender as a social category becomes relevant to elections and behavior. The gender composition of government institutions and the gender‐based strategies of elites are important features of the political context in which voters and candidates act.

(p. 427)

But politics may be more than a mere background factor influencing when gender becomes relevant. American elections and political behavior may give meaning to gender itself. Thinking about how politics constructs gender goes beyond the research agenda of studying the politicization of gender. Future research should consider whether politics is creating and reproducing gender rather than merely cueing it.


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* I thank Kelly Dittmar for research assistance. I thank Susan Carroll, Kathleen Dolan, Timothy Frye and Janet Leighley for comments.

(1) Transcript from Tucker Carlson. <> (accessed December 3, 2007).

(2) Due to space limitations, I am not able to review the entire literature. I focus in this chapter on candidate and voter gender, although gender roles, gender‐linked traits, and gender‐related issues can also shape behavior and elections (see Duerst‐Lahti 2002; Sanbonmatsu 2002; Winter 2005; Wolbrecht 2000). In addition, although I focus on gender difference as a gap between men and women, gender can organize behavior if men and women reach the vote decision differently (see Carroll and Zerilli 1993; Klein 1984; Sapiro and Conover 1997). The reader should bear in mind the pitfalls that accompany an emphasis on difference (see Reingold 2000).

(3) See Burns (2002) and Achen (1992) on the limitations of learning about gender from the gender coefficient in a multivariate model. On how individual and aggregate analysis can be linked, see Burns (2007).

(4) I do not mean to imply that we should expect an unchanging or universal relationship between gender and politics. As Karen Beckwith notes, “male and female, as categories of ‘sex,’ do not lead inexorably to any particular practices or meanings and, hence, do not directly embody politics or political practice” (2005, 130). If interests are endogenous to politics, then the relationship of gender to politics is likely to be a dynamic one. Instead of a fixed relationship between gender and American politics, we should expect time‐bound and conditional gender effects precisely because the meaning and nature of gender as a social category is contested and changes over time and its salience changes as well (Carroll and Zerilli 1993). At the same time, we would not expect complete randomness to how gender is related to political behavior that would prevent us from building general theories.

(5) Scholarship on the role of politics in constructing gender has largely taken place in literatures other than elections (e.g., Gordon 1990; Leonard and Tronto 2007; Ritter 2006). For example, recent gender scholarship on institutions argues that gender is created and reproduced within institutions (Acker 1992; Duerst‐Lahti 2002; Hawkesworth 2003; Kenney 1996; Rosenthal 2002; Smooth 2001).

(6) However, the gender gap in political knowledge may partly be an artifact of the survey response. See Mondak and Anderson (2004). Men and women also specialize in their political knowledge (Burns, Schlozman, and Verba 2001; Delli Carpini and Keeter 1993).

(7) See also McConnaughy (2007, 381).

(8) <>, accessed January 8, 2008.

(9) See McDonagh (2002) on the effect of welfare state policies on women's election to national office.

(10) Eagly (1987) argues that social meaning is conveyed by the social division of labor in which men are more likely to work outside the home than women. The public infers that men and women are pursuing the social roles most conducive to their respective traits, with women more communal and men more agentic. She explains: “The distribution of the sexes into specific social roles indirectly supports stereotypic sex differences because this distribution is an important source of people's expectations about female and male characteristics” (1987, 31).