9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN30 Youth and Generation

2009-09-05 15:30:00 2009-09-05 17:00:00 Saturday, 5 September 15:30 - 17:00 Political Values and Interest Building II, Auditório B2.03

The causes of the gender gap in political interest among Flemish youth


Earlier research has identified a wide gap between the political interest of men and women (Bennet & Bennet, 1996; Delli Carpini, 1996; Verba, Burns & Schlozman, 1997). Research among Flemish youth has revealed that such a gap does not exist at the age of 14, but gradually grows and at the age of 25 is quite sizable, with women?s average political interest being about two thirds of the men?s (Vanhoutte, 2007). The proposed paper has three goals. (1) To verify whether that observation can be replicated on the basis of new research material. (2) To map the gender difference in political interest between the ages of 12 and 30 (instead of 14 and 25). (3) To propose and test an explanation for the gender gap in political interest that emerges during adolescence and young adulthood.
The replication is based on a purely random sample of 3710 respondents, aged 12 to 30, and living in the Flemish region of Belgium, that were surveyed in 2008.
The proposed explanation of the growing gap in political interest is based on the theory of doing gender (West & Zimmerman, 1987) and the application of the theory of symbolic boundaries, as applied to attitude formation (Elchardus & Siongers, 2007). It views a low political interest as part of a gender identity and expects it to grow as this identity takes shape and crystallizes. The crystallization of gender identity will be measured on the basis of discriminant analysis. The thesis that the crystallization of the gender role explains the growing difference in political interest will be tested by verifying whether the degree of femininity as expressed by the discriminant function does indeed explain the gender difference in political interest.


Elchardus, M. & Siongers, J. (2007). Ethnocentrism, taste and symbolic boundaries. Poetics, 35, pp.215-238.

Verba, S., Burns, N. & Schlozman, K.L. (1997). Knowing and caring about politics: gender and political engagement. Journal of Politics, 59, pp.1051-1072.

West, C. & Zimmerman, D.H. (1987). Doing gender. Gender and society, 1(2), pp. 125-151.