Understanding How Women Vote

Gender Identity and Political Choices

by Kelly L. Winfrey


Learn why women vote differently from men—and from each other.

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Cover image for Understanding How Women Vote

November 2018


Pages 222
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Politics, Law, and Government/General
  Current Events and Issues/Gender

Uncovering the psychological and sociological reasons for the gender gap in American politics, this fascinating volume explores how such factors influence women and lead to their political beliefs and behaviors.

Research shows that voting women are distinctly different from voting men. Because the women's vote has been important in nearly every election since the 1980s, it's critical to understand why this gender gap exists and what it means for American politics. This thought-provoking study offers an accessible introduction to research on gender and elections while providing new insights into women's voting behaviors.

Based on original research with women voters of varying ages around the United States from 2008 to the present, the book delves into differences between voting women and men—and indeed among women themselves. The gender gap, the author argues, exists because women's social identity is tied to their group memberships and gender-role beliefs. Thus, rather than grouping all women into one voting bloc, the book examines how gender identity influences various sub-groups of women.

It begins with a discussion of the gender gap in voting preferences throughout history, then goes on to explore the roles of feminism and women's connectedness to their gender group as a primary cause of the gender gap in voting. The remaining chapters discuss how these factors influence women's political engagement, policy positions, and candidate preferences.


  • Provides readers with an in-depth explanation for the gender gap in American politics while also addressing key differences between women voters
  • Explores such intriguing topics as whether women prefer female or male candidates
  • Utilizes original, empirical research and theory on group identification to explain specific political beliefs and behaviors
  • Couples academic theory with clear, accessible examples and explanations
  • Draws from numerous disciplines, including political science, communication studies, sociology, and psychology
  • Offers advice for candidates looking to engage and persuade women
Author Info

Kelly L. Winfrey, PhD, is assistant professor at the Greenlee School of Journalism and Mass Communication and faculty with the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University. Her research focuses on the content and effect of political campaign messaging. She has published several academic journal articles and book chapters related to women as voters and as candidates.



"Understanding How Women Vote provides a wealth of information regarding gender differences in electoral behavior and examines the variations that exist among women who have different levels of group identification and hold different gender-role beliefs. The wide-ranging and comprehensive scope of Kelly L. Winfrey's analysis and the illuminating differences she finds between more traditional and more feminist women make this book indispensable reading for anyone who wants to understand the role of women voters in contemporary American politics."—Susan J. Carroll, Professor of Political Science and Senior Scholar, Center for American Women and Politics, Rutgers University

"Kelly L. Winfrey successfully complicates singular narratives about women voters while providing evidence that gender identity and group consciousness have influential effects on women's political beliefs and behaviors across party and ideological lines. Her findings should compel both scholars and practitioners to re-evaluate assumptions about how gender informs women's political evaluations and engagement." —Kelly Dittmar, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Rutgers-Camden and Scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers-New Brunswick

"With record numbers of women running for office in 2018 and African-American women determining the outcome of the special Senate election in Alabama in 2017, Kelly L. Winfrey's book could not be better timed. Through a historical analysis of the gender gap in national voting trends, dissection of American National Election Study gender data, and identification of issues and socio-economic factors that affect women's political participation, Winfrey unravels a complex set of variables that impact women's choices at the ballot box. Anyone looking to explain the 2018 election and beyond needs this resource to inform the analysis."—Diana B. Carlin, Professor Emerita of Communication, Saint Louis University, and Coauthor of Gender and the American Presidency

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