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Polls Shows Gender Gap

By Juliet J. Chung, Contributing Writer

Men are more involved in the 2000 presidential elections than women but less likely to view the election's results as important, the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy said last week.

The center's polls show that 37 percent of men had thought about the campaign in the past day, compared to 32 percent of women.

Men were also more likely to have talked or heard about the campaign. In the past day, 24 percent of men had talked about the campaign compared to 20 percent of women, and 37 percent of men had read or heard about it in the news compared to 32 percent of women.

Marvin Kalb, executive director of the Shorenstein Center's Washington office and co-director of the Vanishing Voter project, stressed the importance of putting the findings in perspective.

"If you were to have done this poll eight, 12, 16 years ago, there would have been a much, much larger gap between the two sides," Kalb said.

"But what is happening in today's society is that women are rapidly moving into the ranks of working people, teaching people," he added. "If we do this poll again in 2004 you'll see the difference. [Women's involvement] will continue to go up."

On the other hand, 29 percent of women feel that this election's outcome "will make a great deal of difference in their lives" compared to 25 percent of men.

In addition, 35 percent of women said they viewed the outcome as making a large difference in the country's future, compared to 32 percent of men.

The polls also show that women are more dissatisfied with politics and politicians than men. Seventy-six percent of women said that politics is "disgusting" compared to 67 percent of men, and 55 percent of women said politicians do not deserve respect compared to 51 percent of men.

Jane J. Mansbridge, Adams Professor of Political Leadership and Democratic Values at the Kennedy School of Government, said the media's representation of the campaign as a "race" may account for women's lower rates of daily participation despite their belief in politics' importance.

"It's possible that women are interested in politics less as a sports event, what is sometimes called a 'horserace,' than men," said Mansbridge, who added that she was simply speculating about causes for the gender gap.

Mansbridge also said that if campaign involvement were defined in terms of campaign contributions and voter turnout, men and women would be equally involved in politics.

Last week's poll is one of a yearlong series conducted by the Shorenstein Center that began in November. The polls are part of the center's Vanishing Voter project, an attempt to track voter involvement with the campaign in hopes of providing research-based proposals for reforming the presidential election process.

The polls surveyed 1,000 randomly selected respondents via telephone.

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