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Disentangle the modern gender vote gap - a refinement of women’s political alignment

Applicant Schwander Hanna
Number 161234
Funding scheme Ambizione
Research institution
Institution of higher education University of Zurich - ZH
Main discipline Political science
Start/End 01.08.2016 - 31.01.2020
Approved amount 430'152.00
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Keywords (5)

political parties; political alignment of women; gender vote gap; political competition; political preferences

Lay Summary (German)

Im Zentrum dieses Projektes steht das politische Verhalten von Frauen in Westeuropa seit den 1970er Jahren. Als Wählerinnen sind Frauen heute eine ‚ungebundene’ Wählergruppe, um die verschiedene Parteien, insbesondere linke und religiöse Parteien buhlen. Diese Konkurrenzsituation steht im Gegensatz zur Situation in den 1960er und 1970er Jahren, als Frauen mehrheitlich konservativ oder konservativ-religiös wählten.
Lay summary

Dieses Projekt untersucht das politische Verhalten von Frauen und ihre Bindung zu politischen Parteien in Westeuropa im Zeitraum 1970 bis heute. Die politischen Mechanismen, die Frauen und Parteien verbinden, sind jedoch weitgehend unerforscht. Hier setzt das Projekt an: Es untersucht, ob der Differenz im Wählerverhalten zwischen Männern und Frauen auch von einer entsprechenden Differenz in den politischen Präferenzen begleitet wird. Zweitens brechen wir die Idee von Frauen als eine Wählergruppe mit einheitlichen politischen Einstellungen auf und untersuchen das politische Verhalten von Frauen in deren sozialen und wirtschaftlichen Kontext. Drittens wird auch das Angebot der Parteien in die Analyse der Parteien-Wählerbindung miteinbezogen, insbesondere das familien- und sozialpolitische Programm der Parteien. Wir argumentieren, dass es vom Parteienwettbewerb abhängt, ob sozialdemokratische und christdemokratische Parteien eine konservative oder progressive Familienpolitik entwickeln und dass das inhaltliche Angebot der Parteien ausschlaggebend für die Bindung zwischen den verschiedenen Gruppen von Wählerinnen und den Parteien ist. 

Wissenschaftlicher und gesellschaftlicher Kontext

Das Projekt integriert Erkenntnisse aus der Geschlechterforschung, der Wohlfahrtsstaatsforschung, der politischen Ökonomie und der Parteienforschung um ein umfassendes Bild der politischen Orientierung von Frauen zu zeichnen. Damit leistet einen Beitrag zum Verständnis von Parteien-Wähler-Bindungen im Zeitalter des politischen und sozialen Wandels. 

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 04.05.2016

Responsible applicant and co-applicants



Electoral Demand, Party Competition and Family Policy: The Politics of a New Policy Field
Schwander Hanna, Electoral Demand, Party Competition and Family Policy: The Politics of a New Policy Field, in Schwander Hanna, Manow Philip, Palier Bruno (ed.), tbd-tbd.


Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Universität Zürich Switzerland (Europe)
- Publication

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Panel “Who would want that? Public opinion and parties’ preferences towards social investment policies” at the 24th International Conferences of Europeanists Talk given at a conference Compensation, social investment or whatever works? Gendered social policy preferences 12.07.2017 Glasgow, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Schwander Hanna;


Women as voters have undergone a process of political de-alignment and realignment in Western Europe since the 1970s in advanced industrial societies. Whereas women in the 1950s and 1960s displayed a more conservative voting behavior as compared to men (the old gender gap), this has given way to new patterns of gendered voting behavior described as the ‘new’, modern gender vote gap with women tend to vote more often than men for parties on the left of the political spectrum (Inglehart and Norris 2003, Giger 2009, Iversen and Rosenbluth 2010, Emmenegger and Manow 2014). Scholars have proposed several explanations for this finding: increased female labor force participation, women’s higher educational achievements, the higher likeliness of marriage split-ups, and cultural changes making women to fierce supporters of the welfare state and in particular of policies that de-familialize services that were previously fulfilled privately, i.e. by women (Esping-Andersen 2009, Huber et al. 2009).Although the gender vote gap literature rightfully describes a general voting trend, I argue that the underlying political mechanisms between parties and female voters are underexplored. I attempt to provide a refined analysis of women’s political alignment by adding three contributions to the literature and integrating insights from the study of gendered welfare states, party politics and political behavior: first, I study whether the gender vote gap is accompanied by a corresponding gender preferences gap that explains the link between women and parties. Second, I go beyond treating ‘women’ as a uniform block of voters with homogeneous preferences but disaggregate the analysis into different groups of female voters by taking into account contextual factors such as the household or family constellation for their political orientation. Third, I integrate the supply side of political competition, i.e. parties and their ideological orientation, into the study of women’s political realignment, an aspect that has been neglected so far. I argue that it depends on party competition whether parties adopt a progressive or conservative stance towards family policies. In total, I aim to answer three sets of questions: First, have women’s policy preferences really changed or have they only switched their political affinity? Do we observe a divergent pattern of both political preferences and voting behavior among different sub-groups of female voters? Third, which role do parties and their programmatic orientations play in the re-alignment between women and parties?The project will provide the first encompassing analysis of women’s political realignment by providing a refined and in-depth analysis of women’s interests and preferences and taking into account the ideological orientation of parties. With the ambition to develop an encompassing ‘theory on the politics of the gender vote gap’, I aim at integrating political competition and parties’ strategies to mobilize different groups of women into a theoretical framework for the study of women’s political alignment.