Dispositional Empathy and the Political Gender Gap


McCue, Clifford and J. David Gopoian. 2000. “Dispositional Empathy and the Political Gender Gap.” Women and Politics 21 (2): 1-20. 

Authors: Clifford McCue, J. David Gopoian


The gender gap in contemporary American politics refers to differences in political attitudes and behavior between men and women that may be traced back to the 1980 presidential election and the Reagan presidency. For nearly two decades, men have displayed consistently more conservative and pro-Republican preferences than women. Although the gender gap has been well-documented and recognized by practitioners and scholars alike, explanations of why women have been less supportive of the conservative agenda in the Reagan and post-Reagan years have not been explained satisfactorily. In this exploratory study, we suggest that the gender-based political divisions observed in American politics have their origins in exogenous dispositions that men and women bring with them to the political environment. Specifically, women are more predisposed than men to display empathy toward distressed others in society. Differences in dispositions toward empathy are stimulated in the political arena when the agendas of candidates emphasize issues that motivate empathic predispositions. Under such circumstances, women are more inclined than men to express support for liberal policy preferences, and, thus, empathy is a concept that may help us to better understand the nature of the political gender gap.

Topics: Gender, Women, Men, Gender Roles, Gendered Power Relations, Governance, Political Participation Regions: Americas, North America Countries: United States of America

Year: 2000

© 2023 CONSORTIUM ON GENDER, SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTSLEGAL STATEMENT All photographs used on this site, and any materials posted on it, are the property of their respective owners, and are used by permission. Photographs: The images used on the site may not be downloaded, used, or reproduced in any way without the permission of the owner of the image. Materials: Visitors to the site are welcome to peruse the materials posted for their own research or for educational purposes. These materials, whether the property of the Consortium or of another, may only be reproduced with the permission of the owner of the material. This website contains copyrighted materials. The Consortium believes that any use of copyrighted material on this site is both permissive and in accordance with the Fair Use doctrine of 17 U.S.C. § 107. If, however, you believe that your intellectual property rights have been violated, please contact the Consortium at info@genderandsecurity.org.