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The Pink Wave: How women are primed to vote

Leading up to the recent midterm elections in the United States, analysts predicted that women voters and candidates would alter the race.

Published: November 14, 2018, 10:47 am

    More women than ever gained seats in the US Congress, breaking the 100-seat barrier, and the winners included two Muslim women and a Native American woman, both historic firsts.

    In the context of the 2018 midterms, a key observation in recent research was that gender-based issues were at the top of the agenda where high proportions of women candidates ran. This can cue voters to think about gender issues when making their vote choices, in a process called “priming”.

    Voting patterns showed a focus on men and women as two (not more – as LGBT aficionados would argue) different voting blocs with gender strongly conditioning the impact of sex on the vote, according to political magazine The Conversation.

    Measuring sex and gender in survey research, and published last year in Political Behavior, showed that men who do not strongly identify with what they called “hypermasculinity” or traditional male roles, were equally or more liberal than women on various issues, from same-sex marriage to social spending.

    This implies that non-masculine men do not vote Republican because they do not share the party’s positions on the issues that defined the 2018 midterms: Immigration, gun rights, the appointment of Supreme Court judge Brett Kavanaugh and the backlash against identity politics.

    In fact, all respondents whose gender were defined outside traditional masculine or feminine roles were left-leaning politically. Traditional women are more conservative and drawn to the Republican platform.

    This helps to explain the large partisan gaps between men and women and the unprecedented showing of women candidates in 2018, with a record number of women candidates running and winning. Media, think tanks, researchers and political parties had spent a lot of time discussing the “pink wave”.

    Research published last year in the Canadian Journal of Political Science found that it was only among those for whom gender is highly salient that sex and gender have the potential to create large gaps in attitudes and voting, producing a chasm in the electorate.

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