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Gender and Democratic Attitudes: Do Women and Men Prioritize Different Democratic Institutions?

September 2019

Michael A. Hansen , Agustín Goenaga


This article compares the difference in attitudes between men and women, across 29 European countries, on democracy. In established democracies, both men and women support democracy roughly the same levels, but there are differences in what democratic institutions are considered the most important. The differences are the largest in countries with the most robust democracies. Women tend to deem things such as the media, political parties, and representative institutions (all of which privilege male resources and power) less important, and find things less subject to gender imbalances, such as protection of social rights, direct participation, and public justification of government decisions. The differences between men and women on these opinions are relatively small, but are comparable to differences between other individual factors such as education and income. The study also found that women are less likely to believe that democracy works for them.

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Policy Implications

The article argues that rather than focusing on one abstract “model of democracy,” countries should employ a variety of democratic institutions. This will allow different social groups (such as men and women) to seek out institutions that best empower them and their social positioning, allowing them to best exercise their political agency.

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