What is the political contest about in this country. Conservatives vs. progressives? Conservatives vs. Liberals? Or men vs. women?
A recent survey by the Angus Reid Institute suggests the latter has become increasingly important. While almost half of men of all ages support the Conservatives, women are much more supportive of the Liberals and the NDP.
About half of older women favour the Liberals while younger women favour the NDP. No more than a third of any age prefer the Conservatives.
As far as the leaders are concerned, 47 percent of women approve of Trudeau’s performance while only 32 percent of men do. In contrast, 45 percent of men view Poilievre favourably as opposed to only 26 percent of women.
The gender gap isn’t unique to federal politics. Lesser but similar trends have been seen in voting intentions in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta. And in our neighbour to the south, in the 2020 presidential election, 57 percent of women but only 45 percent of men supported Biden while Trump won 42 percent of women’s votes and 53 percent of men’s. Joe is, you might say, a ladies’ man, and Donald a man’s man.
Why the gender gap? Perhaps it’s because men are more inclined to buy into the deeply entrenched but highly questionable notion that Conservatives have a better grasp of economic issues, and men focus on those issues.
Women, on the other hand, may be more concerned about social issues such as welfare, health and education, and the biggest issue of all, climate change. These aren’t exactly conservative strong points. Women may be more partial to a compassionate, equitable society, the very area in which Conservative tax-cutting tends to focus.
And smaller government, a major principle of Conservatives, means not only less social justice, it means less quality work for women. Women are more concentrated than men in the public service than in the private sector. Furthermore, they tend to be better paid and achieve more management positions, partly because pay equity is the law in the public service and partly because it is more unionized.
According to a Statistics Canada 2015 report, leadership roles in the federal government had achieved gender parity. Over half of legislators and senior government managers and officials in the federal government were women, more than double the figure for the private sector.
Not only does the election of progressive parties achieve the kind of government and society women prefer, but it also provides more opportunity and income. It appears the gender gap will loom large in the next federal election and, from women’s perspective at least, for good reason.