The gender gap in African party systems



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Texas Tech University


Over the last couple of decades, an extensive body of literature has emerged on the political gender gap, which explores attitudinal and behavioral differences between men and women. While this literature has concentrated primarily on advanced industrialized countries in Western Europe and the United States, it is unclear how emerging democracies such as African countries are different in terms of the gender gap and which factors explain differences between men and women in Sub-Saharan Africa.

This study extends the current literature by exploring the gender gap in the African context. Specifically, it is interested in two aspects of the political gender gap in Africa. First, it seeks to uncover if men and women are different in terms of party identification and second, to determine if there are gender differences in partisan support, that is, whether men and women have preferences for different political parties. Using survey data from the Afrobarometer series, this study maps the gender gap in party identification across sixteen different African countries. A multivariate analysis was also conducted to test competing explanations related to partisan support in six different African countries: Botswana, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, and Tanzania.

The results show there was a gender gap in party identification but the size of the gender gap varied depending on whether countries had a high, average, or low level of party identification. In addition, the results established that a gender gap in partisan support was evident in six African countries defined by the difference in political support for ruling parties and opposition parties. These countries manifested two different gender gap patterns: an inconsistent contrastive gender gap and an inconsistent singular gender gap. Examining the gender gap in an often-neglected comparative context will add to our understanding of this political phenomenon in new democracies and highlights the future research opportunities in other geographical regions on the gender gap and other related topics.