Dr. Melissa Miller

Battle of the sexes – do men really know more than women about politics?

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The battle of the sexes has many combat zones – with political knowledge being one of the battlefields. For decades women have scored lower than their male counterparts on political knowledge surveys. That trend irked Bowling Green State University political science professor Dr. Melissa Miller enough that she decided to study that “pesky gender gap.” Miller shared her thoughts on the political battle of the sexes recently during at talk at BGSU. Since 1960, national surveys ranking political knowledge asked basically the same questions: Which party controls the U.S. House of Representatives? Who is the vice president? Which branch rules on the Constitutionality of an issue? What majority is required to override a presidential veto? Which is the more conservative political party? “Men on average are more likely to get the answer right,” Miller said. “This is troubling.” For years, the gender gap was blamed on women spending more time at home, being less likely to discuss the topic at work, and being less interested in politics than men. However, those trends just no longer hold true, Miller said. Women in the U.S. are currently more educated, spend less time at home on housekeeping, are more likely to share child-rearing chores, and are much more likely to have jobs outside the home. “So why hasn’t the gender gap disappeared?” she asked. Miller has some ideas. “Maybe it’s the way we measure political knowledge,” she said. Upon looking closer at the way the surveys were conducted, Miller noticed that the political surveys included multiple choice answers – with one of those answers being “I don’t know.” And whether conducted by phone or in person, those taking the surveys were always advised that many people don’t know the correct answer, so they can pick “I don’t know.” Seems insignificant? Not so, Miller said. Women are far more likely to take the bait and say “I don’t know.” Men are more likely to risk a wrong answer, and less likely to say they don’t know….