Essay Questions
Chapter Three: Suffrage Accomplished – Women as Political Participants
1. After women were legally permitted to vote, overall voter turnout rates declined in the
United States. Some argue this was due to women's inclusion in the eligible voter pool
even though they were substantially less likely to vote than men. Others attributed the
overall decline to a partisan dealignment that resulted in a less active role for political
parties in encouraging voter turnout. Make an argument in favor of one explanation using
the information provided in Chapter Three.
2. In what ways do political parties facilitate political participation? Evaluate the claim
that political parties are biased against women's participation as voters and candidates.
Use the research evidence presented in Chapter Three in your evaluation.
3. Evaluate the short- and long-term implications of the resource gap between men and
women. Men are more likely to contribute money and to contribute larger sums of
money. In what ways does this advantage them in the current political system? How
might the most recent campaign finance reform, the Bipartisan Campaign Finance
Reform Act of 2002, influence the resource gap? Will the gap grow bigger as a result of
the changes in the law or will BCRA narrow the gap between male and female
candidates? In what ways has the Internet expanded the likelihood that women will
contribute to candidates? Is this likely to expand women’s political power? Explain why
or why not using the research presented in Chapter Three.
4. Compare and contrast the three explanations for the patterns of participation rates for
women and men. In your judgment, why do women vote at higher rates than men, but
know less about politics and pay less attention to politics than men?
5. In 2004, the gender gap was smaller than it has been in over a decade. The gender gap
in 2008 was also 7 points—identical to 2004. However, Barack Obama drew a larger
share of women voters than John Kerry did in 2004 (56% in 2008 compared to 51% in
2004) while John McCain attracted votes from fewer women in 2008 (43%) compared to
George W. Bush in 2004 (48%). What do these two elections teach us about the relative
nature of the gender gap? Drawing on evidence from the text and from the class, evaluate
the long-term prospects of the gender gap in American politics. In your judgment, is the
gender gap a meaningful concept in explaining American elections? Why or why not?
6. Does a political climate dominated by war, terrorism, and military concerns diminish
women’s involvement in politics? Using the research on women’s participation patterns
relative to men’s, and the forces that motivate them to engage in political activity,
evaluate the 2004 and 2008 contests. What about a poor economy? Did the recession
change the way gender influenced political participation? Explain using the research and
data presented in Chapter Three.
7. Voters are attracted to support candidates for a variety of reasons, but new research
presented in Chapter Three suggests that voters may make snap decisions about a
candidate’s competence based on their appearance. In what respect is a voter’s decision
based on appearance “gendered”? Based on these studies, what kind of electoral
dilemmas might female candidates face in the future? How will these dilemmas vary
depending on the level of office and the involvement of the media? Explain.