You May Protest if I Agree With You - BCB #87
Also: is the partisan gender gap actually growing? and apply here to become a bridge-building ambassador
A recent YouGov poll found that people are more likely to support protest tactics like marching, handing out flyers, boycotting, and picketing if they support the cause. For example, support for boycotting increases from 64% to 74% when people support the cause. More disruptive tactics like rioting, blocking traffic, and defacing property are considered unacceptable by most, but people find them more tolerable if they support the cause.
Among the sixteen causes included in the poll, 65% of Americans support “free speech,” making it the most favored cause, while 49% oppose “defunding the police,” which was the most opposed. Support and opposition for many causes are starkly divided along political lines, with Democrats and Republicans split on issues such as border security, gun rights, racial equality, and abortion rights.
The poll also indicated that Americans’ priorities differ by gender. For example, LGBT rights are the least supported cause of 17% of men but only 8% of women. Which brings us to…
We’ve previously covered evidence that the ideological gap between genders is increasing among Gen Z. The question of how much it is increasing turns out to be complicated. The Financial Times recently used Gallup data to show how political differences between men and women are growing wider in different countries. Columnist John Burn-Murdoch found that women between 18 and 30 are 30% more liberal than men the same age, and that that gap opened up in the last six years.
But shortly after the story came out, Allen Downey from Probably Overthinking It challenged the extent of this trend. Using a different data set, the long-running General Social Survey, and accounting for data quality problems in 2022, he found that the trend isn’t quite as stark and the error bounds are still wide (the error bounds are the highlighted sections around each line in the graph below.)
Downey concluded that women are only 5 to 10% more likely to identify as liberal, and that both men and women have become more likely to identify as liberal since the 1990s. In short, did not find evidence that the gender ideology gap is growing.
Murdoch responded, saying that the discrepancy between their results is because they’re using different datasets. With a higher sample size, he argued, there is indeed a gap:
The confusion stems from the fact that I used the Gallup Poll Social Series, whereas [Downey] is using the General Social Survey.
The Gallup poll samples 10,000+ people, whereas the GSS (below) only samples about 2,000 (and only about ~250 under-30s).
But an analysis by Ryan Burge using yet another data set, the 50,000 person Cooperative Election Study, suggests that the gender gap is real but not growing.
Each of these data sources uses somewhat different questions and methods, such as online surveys vs. phone calls. As with many controversial issues, the answer depends on exactly what you count (see: which party has gotten more extreme, which side is better organized). While there are multiple reasons to believe that the gender gap in American politics is real – for example, men vote for Trump more than women – it’s less clear whether that gap is growing, or how much. This nerdy episode is an excellent reminder not to draw firm conclusions from just one striking chart.
The Better Arguments Project, an initiative that aims to bridge divides by fostering better arguments in civic life, is launching an fellowship-style Ambassador Program. This initiative will equip participants to help their communities engage in healthier, more constructive disagreements.
The program is free and open to individuals with interest or experience in facilitating conversations. Successful applicants will be selected based on factors including geographic location, political views, and professional sector, to ensure a diverse and thoughtful cohort. Those selected will have two-hour virtual meetings once a week for ten weeks and will receive a stipend. If this sounds like something you’re interested in you can apply here, before February 14 at 11:59 pm ET.
Better Arguments’ framework for more productive disagreement has three dimensions. Arguers must ground their claims in informed historical context, strive for emotional intelligence, and recognize how power impacts conversation. These are the basis for their Five Principles of Better Arguments, and will guide the Ambassador Program.
Quote of the Week
Democracy requires a public realm, a political public sphere, that comes into being when citizens deal with matters of general interest without being subject to coercion; thus with the guarantee that they may assemble and unite freely, and express and publicize their opinions freely.