Seeing Gender Everywhere: Assessing the Impact of Traditional Gender Attitudes on American and European Public Opinion

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Christley, Olyvia Rebeccah, Foreign Affairs - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Walsh, Denise, AS-Dept of Politics, University of Virginia
Winter, Nicholas, AS-Dept of Politics, University of Virginia
Waldner, David, AS-Dept of Politics, University of Virginia
Mershon, Carol, AS-Dept of Politics, University of Virginia
Trawalter, Sophie, BA-Frank Batten School, University of Virginia

This dissertation examines the role that deeply held beliefs about gender roles, masculinity, and femininity—otherwise known as gender attitudes—have on public opinion. Gender’s influence stretches far beyond the role of individual gender identities and gender consciousness to encompass the ways in which feelings or beliefs about masculinity and femininity (either conscious or subconscious) shape behavior and opinions on a variety of issues—many of which may have no explicit connection to gender. Despite the prominent role gender plays in our perceptions and the impact it has on our behavior, however, we still know very little about the relationship between gender attitudes and a variety of political phenomena.

In this dissertation, I analyze the role of gender attitudes in American and European politics in the form of three complementary, yet distinct, papers. Paper one looks at the relationship between traditional gender attitudes, nativism, and support for the radical right in Europe using survey data from the European Values Study, and provides evidence that traditional gender attitudes constitute a unique pathway to support for the radical right among both nativists and non-nativists. Paper two provides a theoretical framework for understanding the ways in which gender traditionalism is linked to the gendered dimensions of nationalism, and tests this relationship using original survey questions fielded on the 2020 Cooperative Election Study. I also show how gendered nationalism has the capacity to mediate the relationship between traditional gender attitudes and support for anti-immigrant policies, the latter of which harbors implicit connections to the gendered components of nationalism. Lastly, paper three explores the association between traditional gender attitudes and support for political violence using original survey data collected in the United States, where I find that holding traditional gender attitudes increases the likelihood of expressing favor for violence against both the state and ordinary citizens.

Overall, these findings improve our understanding of the role gender attitudes play in shaping public opinion, and contribute to the broader political science literature on the psychology of identity-based attitudes, support for illiberalism, and gender politics.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Gender Attitudes, Nationalism, Nativism, Radical Right, American Politics, European Politics, Political Violence, Political Psychology
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