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I'm looking for recommended reading on difference in voting patterns between men and women - both empirical data and theoretical explanations. In particular, have any significant biases (in terms of political spectrum or specific issues) been confirmed when comparing male and female voting patterns?

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I imagine there would be a huge literature on this topic. I found one interesting article by Inglehart and Norris (2000). I recommend reading the article. The article reports empirical findings relating to gender differences in voting patterns across countries and over time. It also discusses some of the proposed reasons for these differences.

The authors note that gender is generally not as important as class, region, or religion in voting patterns and in the formation of political parties.

To quote a few particular passages:

Studies carried out in many countries in previous decades found that women were more conservative than men and less likely to participate in politics.... The article draws on evidence from the World Values Surveys in the early 1980s, and the early and mid-1990s carried out in over sixty countries around the world. This study establishes that gender differences in electoral behavior have been realigning, with women moving toward the left of men throughout advanced industrial societies (though not in postcommunist societies or developing countries) ...

To explain this movement of women tending to vote for left wing candidates, they offer what they call the Developmental Theory of Gender Realignment:

[They] argue that a developmental theory can be used to explain this phenomenon, in which the transformation of sex roles in postindustrial societies has influenced the process of value change. As women’s and men’s lifestyles and cultural attitudes have been altered by the process of societal modernization [the authors] expect this to have a major impact on their political preferences.

In short, the article is well worth reading particularly for the way they have summarised various empirical sources of information regarding gender differences.

References

  • Inglehart, R., & Norris, P. (2000). The developmental theory of the gender gap: Women’s and men’s voting behavior in global perspective. International Political Science Review, 21(4), 441-463. PDF
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