Global study finds women know less about politics than men

Wednesday 31 July 2013
Dr Sharon Coen

The University of Salford has contributed to a study which found that women around the world know less about politics than men, regardless of the wealth and democratic status of their country.

The study of men and women in Australia, Canada, Colombia, Greece, Italy, Japan, Norway, South Korea, the UK and the USA found that men in advanced democracies are more motivated and encouraged to accumulate political knowledge than women are, with news consumption being a predominantly male pastime.

One of the most surprising findings of the study is that the gap in political awareness is actually wider in countries which have done the most to promote gender equality. Women’s scores in the UK, USA and Canada were more than 30% lower than men, whereas in Greece, Italy and Korea the difference was less than 20%.

The gender gaps in knowledge in Norway, the UK and USA are as large, or even larger, than in South Korea and Japan, suggesting that gender inequalities persist even after the achievement of basic rights and equality for women.

However, the research shows that women are not as visible as men in the coverage of TV and quality newspapers in all 10 countries, with women only being cited in 30% of TV news stories. Female apathy to public affairs could therefore be a response to ‘hard’ news being heavily biased towards men.

Dr Sharon Coen of the School of Health Sciences co-wrote the study with researchers from Goldsmiths University of London and the University of Tokyo. She said: “These results highlight that there is still a lot of work to do in order to allow women to take an active role in the political life of their countries of origin. And we are determined to help.”

The study was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

Gender Matters Globally: Gaps in Political Knowledge in a Ten-Nation Comparative Study, 2013.