November 26 2012

Role of Government, Not “Women’s Issues,” Defines the Gender Gap

Vicki E. Alger

 

Newsmax.com had a thoughtful—and refreshing—article about the gender gap in voting. No single issue defines the gap. Instead, the divide centers on the role and size of government in our lives:

For the first time in research dating to 1952, a presidential candidate whom men chose decisively — Republican Mitt Romney — lost. More women voted for the other guy. …

When it comes to elections, males as a group are more influential because they show less party loyalty than women, who skew Democratic.

Despite all the focus on candidates courting Hispanics or the working class, men are the nation's ultimate swing voters; they're why Republican George W. Bush became president and Republican John McCain didn't. …

So presidential hopefuls staring into the gender gap in 2016 might want to look beyond the usual controversies over "women's issues" such as abortion or the polling fads such as "Wal-Mart moms." Maybe it's time to pause and consider the fickle male. Maybe it's time to ask, "What do men want?"…

"I don't think we fully understand it yet," political scientist Christina Wolbrecht of the University of Notre Dame said about why men and women vote differently. But she said plenty of research on elections going back to the 1950s indicates it's not because of issues such as equal pay, birth control coverage in health plans or Romney's awkward reference to "binders full of women."

Paul Kellstedt has some ideas. A Texas A&M associate professor of political science, Kellstedt studies what American men and women want from their government and how that shifts over time….

But there has been a consistent thread of disagreement for decades over what role the government should play. It's not a big gap, but it is statistically significant, about 4 percentage points or 5 points in many studies, Kellstedt said. As a group, women tend to like bigger government with more health and welfare programs; men lean toward smaller government that spends less, except on the military.

Our liberties rest on the capacity to be self-governing, not government dependents. Perhaps it’s time to ask ourselves whether we truly believe:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Bigger government doesn’t mean better protection of our rights, much less our happiness. And once we allow government to grow too big, both our rights and our happiness will be at risk.

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