As a teaser for our March essay dialogue (launching on March 4) on the legacy of Roe v. Wade and the long-term trajectories of reproductive movements, we’ve asked Christina Wolbrecht, Associate Professor of Political Science at Notre Dame, to comment on abortion and the partisan gender gap. Her full essay on this topic was published at Mischiefs of Faction.
The Roe decision, forty years ago this year, sparked a heated political battle over reproductive rights that continues to this day. Among the consequences, many believe, was the emergence of the partisan gender gap, the tendency of women to identify with the Democratic party and to support Democratic candidates to a greater extent than do men. This belief is not an accident: The women’s movement (specifically NOW), fearing a loss of political influence following the failure to achieve ERA ratification, first drew attention to the gender gap in presidential elections and sought to link it to the parties’ positions on women’s issues, such as abortion and the ERA, in the early 1980s. The expectation that abortion drives the gender gap remains popular; this past Fall, well-known FiveThirtyEight polling analyst Nate Silver attributed the on-going gender gap in presidential elections to Roe and abortion specifically.
As intuitively appealing as such claims may be, the association between abortion and the gender gap has been directly contradicted by three decades of social science research. I take a closer look at the partisan gender gap and the question of whether abortion is the culprit in a blog post on the political science blog, Mischiefs of Faction.