kpathakis@ucsd.edu

In My Humble Non-opinion: How differing information thresholds drive the gender gap in opinion reporting

Despite the recent increase in visibility of women in politics, equality remains elusive. I uncover an important and often overlooked way women’s policy preferences are underrepresented in American politics. Using representative survey data (i.e., ANES, CCES) and my own survey experiments, I show that women are more likely than men to select non-opinion responses (e.g., “don’t know”) on important questions of public policy. I further show that this gender gap is not attributable to conventional explanatory factors, like partisanship, employment, marital status, edu- cation, or income. Instead, I theorize and demonstrate that women require more information about an issue than men do before they are willing to report an opinion about it—possibly due to gender norms around speaking up. As a result, the survey results policymakers and academics rely on to understand public opinion are biased in favor of men’s views, impeding women’s impact on policy and the public discourse.

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