Acta Politica

, Volume 46, Issue 4, pp 380–399 | Cite as

Investigating political equality: The example of gender and political participation in Sweden

  • Per Adman
Original Article


A common thought is that political participation must be equally high among different social groups – such as women and men or various socioeconomic groups – in order for political equality to be fulfilled. This approach has, however, been criticized for being too crude. Several scholars argue that one must also study the reasons behind group differences in participation. If these differences are explained by differences in resources – and not political motivation – political equality is threatened, as this points to structural inequalities determining participatory differences. Using this perspective, I make an empirical investigation into the political participation of women and men in Sweden, a country known for unusually far-reaching political gender equality. In spite of this, men devote more of their political activities to areas of production, such as questions relating to working life, and I find that this difference may be explained by a male advantage in political resources (civic skills, primarily). The conclusion is that political equality has not yet been fully realized between women and men in Sweden. Hence, future studies should consider separating between different policy areas, when empirically evaluating the status of political equality. Quantitative methods are used in the empirical analyses.


political participation political equality gender political resources political motivation Sweden 


  1. Adman, P. (2004) Arbetslöshet, arbetsplatsdemokrati och politiskt deltagande. Doctoral thesis, Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, Uppsala.Google Scholar
  2. Adman, P. (2008) Does workplace experience enhance political participation? A critical test of a venerable hypothesis. Political Behavior 30 (1): 115–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Adman, P. (2009) The puzzle of gender-equal political participation in Sweden: The importance of norms and mobilization. Scandinavian Political Studies 32 (3): 315–336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Adman, P. and Strömblad, P. (2000) Resurser för politisk integration. Utanför demokratin? Del 3. Norrköping, Sweden: Integrationsverkets rapportserie, p. 16.Google Scholar
  5. Barkan, S.E. (2004) Explaining public support for the environmental movement: A civic voluntarism model. Social Science Quarterly 85 (4): 913–937.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Beitz, C.R. (1989) Political Equality: An Essay in Democratic Theory. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Bergqvist, C., Adman, P. and Jungar, A.-C. (2008) Kön och politik. Stockholm, SE: SNS.Google Scholar
  8. Bourque, S. and Grossholtz, J. (1974) Politics as an unnatural practice: Political science looks at female participation. Politics and Society 4 (2): 255–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Burns, N., Schlozman, K.L. and Verba, S. (2001) The Private Roots of Public Action: Gender, Equality, and Political Participation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Chodorow, N.J. (1978) The Reproduction of Mothering: Psychoanalysis and the Sociology of Gender. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  11. Coleman, J.S. (1990) Foundations of Social Theory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Dahl, R. (1989) Democracy and Its Critics. New Haven, CT; London: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Davis, J.A. (1985) Logic of Causal Order. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. de Vaus, D. and McAllister, I. (1989) The changing politics of women: Gender and political alignment in 11 nations. European Journal of Political Research 17 (3): 241–262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Engeli, I., Ballmer-Cao, T. and Giugni, M. (2006) Gender gap and turnout in the 2003 federal elections. Swiss Political Science Review 12 (4): 217–242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Esaiasson, P. and Westholm, A. (2006) Deltagandets mekanismer. In: P. Esaiasson and A. Westholm (eds.) Deltagandets mekanismer: Det politiska engagemangets orsaker och konsekvenser. Stockholm, SE: Liber.Google Scholar
  17. Finkel, S.E. and Muller, E.N. (1998) Rational choice and the dynamics of collective political action: Evaluating alternative models with panel data. American Political Science Review 92 (1): 37–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Finkel, S.E., Muller, E.N. and Opp, K.-D. (1989) Personal influence, collective rationality, and mass political action. American Political Science Review 83 (3): 885–903.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Inglehart, R. and Norris, P. (2003) Rising Tide: Gender Equality and Cultural Change Around the World. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jangsten, F. and Hermansson, J. (2006) Om familjens politiska betydelse. In: P. Esaiasson and A. Westholm (eds.) Deltagandets mekanismer: Det politiska engagemangets orsaker och konsekvenser. Stockholm, SE: Liber.Google Scholar
  21. Jennings, M.K. (2006) The gender gap in attitudes and beliefs about the place of women in American political life: A longitudinal, cross-generational analysis. Politics & Gender 2 (2): 193–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kam, C.D., Zechmeister, E.J. and Wilking, J.R. (2008) Gender and participation among non-hispanic Whites and Mexican-Americans. Political Research Quarterly 61 (2): 205–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Nagel, J.H. (1987) Participation. London: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  24. Nermo, M. (1999) Structured by Gender: Patterns of Sex Segregation in the Swedish Labour Market: Historical and Cross-National Comparisons. Stockholm, SE: Swedish Institute for Social Research.Google Scholar
  25. Nie, N.H., Junn, J. and Stehlik-Barry, K. (1996) Education and Democratic Citizenship in America. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  26. Olson, M. (1965) The Logic of Collective Action: Public Goods and the Theory of Groups. London: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Petersson, O., Hermansson, J., Micheletti, M., Teorell, J. and Westholm, A. (1998) Demokrati och medborgarskap: Demokratirådets rapport 1998. Stockholm, SE: SNS.Google Scholar
  28. Petersson, O., Westholm, A. and Blomberg, G. (1989) Medborgarnas makt. Stockholm, SE: Carlssons.Google Scholar
  29. Randall, V. (1987) Women and Politics: An International Perspective. Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan Education.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Sapiro, V. (1983) The Political Integration of Women: Roles, Socialization, and Politics. Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
  31. Schlozman, K.L., Burns, N. and Verba, S. (1999) What happened at work today? A multistage model of gender, employment, and political participation. Journal of Politics 61 (1): 29–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Sen, A. (1997) Equality of what? In: R. Goodin and P. Pettit (eds.) Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Anthology. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishers.Google Scholar
  33. Statistics Sweden. (2006) Antal förvärvsarbetande dagbefolkning efter sektor och kommun 2004,, accessed 31 October 2006.
  34. Teorell, J. (2006) Political participation and three theories of democracy: A research inventory and agenda. European Journal of Political Research 45 (5): 787–810.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Teorell, J., Sum, P. and Tobiasen, M. (2007) Participation and political equality: An assessment of large-scale democracy. In: J.W. van Deth, J.R. Montero and A. Westholm (eds.) Citizenship and Involvement in European Democracies: A Comparative Analysis. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  36. Teorell, J. and Westholm, A. (1999) Var det bättre förr? Politisk jämlikhet i Sverige under 30 år. In: E. Amnå (ed.) Medborgarnas erfarenheter, Council on Democracy research V. SOU 113. Stockholm: Fritzes.Google Scholar
  37. Verba, S. (1996) The citizen as respondent: Sample surveys and American democracy. American Political Science Review 90 (1): 1–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Verba, S. and Nie, N.H. (1972) Participation in America: Political Democracy and Social Equality. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  39. Verba, S., Nie, N.H. and Kim, J. (1978) A Seven Nation Comparison: Participation and Political Equality. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Verba, S., Schlozman, K.L. and Brady, H.E. (1995) Voice and Equality: Civic Voluntarism in American Politics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Westholm, A. and Esaiasson, P. (2006) Kritikens mekanismer. In: P. Esaiasson and A. Westholm (eds.) Deltagandets mekanismer: Det politiska engagemangets orsaker och konsekvenser. Stockholm, SE: Liber.Google Scholar
  42. Whiteley, P.F. (1995) Rational choice and political participation: Evaluating the debate. Political Research Quarterly 48 (1): 211–233.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Per Adman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GovernmentUppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden

Personalised recommendations