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Gender Differences in Social and Political Attitudes: It’s Protection versus Freedom, not Liberalism versus Conservatism

Gerhard Meisenberg


Published: 2021/03/01


This study examines sex differences in socio-political attitudes in the United States using the General Social Survey (GSS). It solves the seeming paradox that women have been described as both more religious and more liberal than men. The results indicate that women are indeed more religious than men and more socially conservative in many respects as indicated by earlier research in the United States and elsewhere. However, they are also more “economically liberal” in the US sense of favoring more social expenditures by the government. The observed differences do not fit the present political alignments of the United States. They rather indicate that women more than men are concerned about protecting people from economic hardship, from threats emerging from “non-standard” beliefs and worldviews, and from the darker side of their own nature. The sex differences can be described as lying on a protection versus freedom dimension, similar to what has been described for political alignments in many non-Western countries. At the level of specific issues, most sex differences have remained quite stable from the 1970s to the 2010s.

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