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Elite Influence on Attitudes About Gender Egalitarianism: Evidence from a Population-Based Survey Experiment

Abstract

Although various explanations have been proposed in regard to the persistency of patriarchal attitudes and gendered outcomes in political processes, much of the scholarly attention has focused on structural factors related to cultural dynamics and modernization. Motivated by a growing body of research looking into the role political elites play in shaping public attitudes about issues of normative importance, we make an attempt to shift empirical focus to shorter-term dynamics and understand how elite cues can undermine gender egalitarian values within the mass public. Drawing on an original population-based survey experiment of over 2700 subjects from a nation-wide face-to-face survey in Turkey, we examined how President Erdogan’s patriarchal statements influence gender-egalitarian attitudes and how this influence varies across partisan groups. Our results show that the treatment group, relative to the control group, reports significantly lower levels of gender-egalitarian attitudes, and this effect is discernible even among secular opposition party voters. We conclude by discussing the potential implications of our findings for the study of gender-egalitarian values and elite influence in political processes.

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Data availability

The original data and code for replicating the analyses in this article are available at Dataverse: https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/GQOAJG

Notes

  1. Two potential factors may have contributed to the overrepresentation of college and high school graduates in our sample. First, respondents may be motivated to misreport their formal educational attainment in opinion polls. Second, and more importantly, while TUIK reports the percentage of high school and college graduates among those over 14 years old, our sample includes respondents over 17 years old, which helps explains the overrepresentation of high school graduates in our sample.

  2. While we do not have official statistics regarding the number of citizens of Kurdish origin in Turkey, unofficial estimates point to around 15 percent (Milliyet, 2007). It is important to note, however, that some respondents may have been reluctant to report Kurdish background due to the political saliency of identity in contemporary Turkey.

  3. Our sample is highly representative of the broader population in terms of age. As an example, nearly 9 percent of the sample and 8.8 percent for the population is above 65 years old.

  4. Since our treatment variable is a very generalist statement regarding women’s role in society, we grouped the realms of work, education and social life together in our first attitude question. While this approach admittedly does not allow for a more fine-grained analysis, we believe it provides good opportunities to explore the effect of anti-egalitarian messages on patriarchal attitudes in a holistic and parsimonious manner. Patriarchal attitudes arguably manifest themselves in various forms in different parts of the country, due mainly to considerable variation in socioeconomic development across the regions. Accordingly, as an example, anti-egalitarian elite cues may have a bigger impact on attitudes about women’s participation in labor force, compared to those about women’s role in social life, in some regions, but not others. To take this into account, our generalist attitude question grouped different domains together.

  5. Since 22 respondents did not answer the first attitude question, our sample size dropped to 2,714.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank S. Erdem Aytaç for his comments on an earlier draft. We would also like to thank the workshop participants at the University of Stavanger, Norway, as well as the three anonymous reviewers and the editor of Political Behavior, for their constructive feedback and useful comments.

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The authors received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

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Correspondence to Alper T. Bulut.

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Bulut, A.T., Yildirim, T.M. Elite Influence on Attitudes About Gender Egalitarianism: Evidence from a Population-Based Survey Experiment. Polit Behav (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11109-021-09722-w

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Keywords

  • Elite influence
  • Gender egalitarianism
  • Survey experiment
  • Erdogan
  • Turkey