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Gender Jeopardy: What is the Impact of Gender Differences in Political Knowledge on Political Participation?


  • *Direct correspondence to Heather L. Ondercin, 240 Stubbs Hall, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70815 〈〉. Heather L. Ondercin will share all data and coding for replications purposes. The authors thank Kathleen Bratton, Johanna Dunaway, and James Garand for their insightful comments. Additional thanks to James Endersby, John Petrocik, Suzie Linn, and Eric Plutzer, whose comments were helpful at the onset of this project. An earlier version of this article was presented at the Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, April 7–10, 2005, Chicago, IL.


Objective. We explore whether observed sex-based differences in political knowledge have an impact on men's and women's participation in six different political activities.

Methods. Utilizing ANES data from the five presidential elections between 1984 and 2000, we employ logistic regression to estimate the likelihood of voting, influencing a vote, attending a political meeting, working on a political campaign, wearing a political button, and making a campaign donation.

Results. At lower levels of political knowledge, women's lower political knowledge depresses their participation in politics. The participation gap disappears at higher levels of political knowledge for three participatory acts: attempting to influence a vote, attending a political meeting, and donating to a political campaign. Furthermore, at higher levels of political knowledge, women are more likely than men to vote, wear a political button, or work for political campaigns.

Conclusion. Our analysis reveals that political knowledge differentially affects men's and women's political participation. These findings complement existing scholarship that finds women hold themselves to a higher standard before engaging in political activities such as running for elected office.