Explaining the gender gap in U.S. presidential elections, 1980-1992

Carole Kennedy Chaney, R. Michael Alvarez, Jonathan Nagler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article compares the voting behavior of women and men in presidential elections since 1980. We test whether the different levels of salience which men and women attribute to different issues or the different preferences men and women have on issues best accounts for the gender gap. Utilizing theories of different issue emphasis between men and women, we use a multivariate model to demonstrate that a combination of respondent views on the economy, social programs, military action, abortion, and ideology can consistently explain at least three-fourths of the gender gap in the 1984, 1988, and 1992 elections. We show that, consistent with prior research on individual elections, women placed more emphasis on the national economy than men, and men placed more emphasis on pocketbook voting than women. We add evidence showing that women have consistently more negative assessments of the economy than do men, suggesting that a part of what has been considered a Republican-Democratic gender gap is really an anti-incumbent bias on the part of women. We also clarify the interpretation of partisan identification in explaining the gender gap.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)311-339
Number of pages29
JournalPolitical Research Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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