Gender and opinion–policy congruence in Europe

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In a well-functioning democracy, public policy should not systematically reflect the preferences of some groups of citizens less well than those of others. Yet, it is often believed that this is the case for women, with one potential reason being their lower presence in politics. However, we lack systematic empirical evidence on the representation of women’s and men’s preferences in concrete policy. This study provides such evidence for a diverse set of twenty specific policy issues in 31 European countries. While the majorities of men and women often desire the same policies, men’s preferences are more likely to be represented when they disagree. This pattern can neither be explained by the proportion of women in parliament nor by the left–right position of the government. In contrast, a higher effective number of political parties increases women’s relative representation, while electoral system proportionality does not. ‘New politics’ issues play a key role here, but differences in women’s representation do not seem to be due to presence of Green parties and government positions on the libertarian-authoritarian dimension.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)613-635
Number of pages23
JournalEuropean Political Science Review
Issue number4
Early online date10 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2018


  • opinion-policy congruence
  • gender
  • descriptive representation
  • electoral systems
  • political behaviour
  • public opinion


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