Voting in referendums increases internal political efficacy of men but not women: evidence from Ireland's 2018 abortion referendum

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Abstract

Will experience with direct democracy influence men's and women's political beliefs differently? Despite the closed gender gap in voter turnout, women remain less interested in politics and participate less frequently in non-voting activities than men. Scholars find women's lower sense of internal political efficacy as the origins of these gender gaps. In this paper, I examine whether the experience of direct participation in political decision-making alters women's feelings of internal political efficacy differently from it does men's. Building on the insights from the literature on the gendered psychological traits, I theorize that voting in referendums will promote men's internal political efficacy but not women's, because of women's greater susceptibility to the psychological costs of participation in referendums. Using an original panel survey conducted shortly before and after the 2018 abortion referendum in Ireland, I demonstrate the presence of the gendered effect in voting in referendums: While men reported increased internal political efficacy after voting in the referendum, women did not experience any meaningful change, even though the issue magnified women's psychological engagement with the vote. My findings suggest that differences in psychological dispositions between men and women create gendered reactions to citizen experience in the political arena.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)707-726
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties
Volume32
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elections, Public Opinion & Parties.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science

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