Political Behavior

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 43–66 | Cite as

Gender Gap in Political Tolerance

  • Ewa A. Golebiowska


While women and men do not differ in their attitudes in most areas, persistent gender differences have been identified in several issue domains, including support for civil liberties of political outgroups. Generally speaking, research shows that women are more reluctant than men to allow unpopular groups to exercise their constitutional rights; women also seem to differ from men in their choice of intolerance targets. While we have been cognizant of the existence of the gender gap in political tolerance since the beginning of survey research on the subject, we know less about its etiology. Using data from the 1987 Freedom and Tolerance National Survey and the General Social Survey from the same year, I explore the underpinnings of gender differences in political tolerance. To this end, I scrutinize explanations advanced in previous research on political tolerance (e.g., women's greater religiosity), propositions stemming from feminist theory (e.g., the notion of maternal thinking), as well as others that do not fit neatly into the above two categories (e.g., gender differences in commitment to democratic norms and political expertise). Because the implications of women's intolerance differ depending on whether their intolerance is focused on a single group or dispersed among several groups, I also examine the patterns in men's and women's choices of intolerance targets. Empirical analysis demonstrates that gender differences in commitment to democratic norms and political expertise (through the letter's influence on subscription to democratic norms), as well as threat perceptions, tolerance of uncertainty, and moral traditionalism (through the latter two's influence on threat perceptions), are the principal “culprits” for women's intolerance. Men's and women's choices of intolerance targets are largely pluralistically distributed and parallel, with only a few exceptions. Women exhibit a greater preference for the KKK and abortion groups (particularly those pro-choice in their orientation) as their least-liked targets. Men evince a preference for radical right-wing groups generally (and militarists in particular).


Gender Difference Civil Liberty General Social Survey Feminist Theory Great Preference 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ewa A. Golebiowska
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceTufts UniversityMedford

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