POLITICS

Women Know Less About Politics, Current Affairs Than Men: UK Report

07/03/2013 11:33 EDT
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Women in Canada are more ignorant of politics and current affairs than men, research funded by the U.K. government concluded.

So are women in Australia, Colombia, Greece, Italy, Japan, Korea, Norway, the U.K. and the U.S., according to the study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

It found that even in progressive and developed societies with high levels of gender equality, women know less about politics than men.

"Our finding that the gap between men and women's knowledge of politics is greater in Norway — a country ranked globally as one of the very highest in terms of gender equality — than in South Korea — a country with a much lower equality rating — is particularly striking," said the study’s lead author James Curran, Director of the Goldsmiths Leverhulme Media Research Centre at the University of London, in a press release.

One part of the study had participants answer a multiple-choice test. Canadian men answered slightly less than half of answers correctly, while women got a third right, according to the National Post. That put them on par with American men. Women in the U.S. answered one in five questions correctly.

In fact, Curran and Co.’s study, 'Media System, Political Context and Informed Citizenship: A Comparative Study', found that the political knowledge gap is even wider in "advanced" countries like the U.S. and U.K.

"The fact that throughout the whole world women know less about politics than men and that this is as true for people in Norway as it is in Colombia is really very surprising,” he said.

Curran, according to the Post, suggested three possible reasons for the gap: the "historical hangover" from a time when men dominated public affairs and women stayed home, women having less time for news, and finally men being more prominent in current affairs, leaving some women to feel discouraged from participating.

But a major contributor to the political knowledge gap seems to be media exposure.

For the research, Curran and his team looked at the supply and content of news in the 10 countries, finding that viewing public television for news, as opposed to commercial television, yielded a better informed public.

But the report concluded that watching, reading and listening to news is very much a male activity, with men in Canada, Norway and the U.K. claiming they are exposed to newspapers and TV news more than women.

In terms of content, the study found that women are only interviewed or cited in 30 per cent of TV news stories in the 10 countries.

"It’s enormously off-putting for women to be looking at the news as always being about men," Curran told The Telegraph.

"Politics is projected as a man’s world and that encourages a sense of disconnection."

Co-researcher Kaori Hayashi, of the University of Tokyo, agrees.

"It seems that gaps in exposure to media are related to the gaps of knowledge between men and women," she said.

"Such under-representation and topical bias of women in news media may curb women's motivation to acquire political knowledge actively, and discourage them from political participation, and even prevent women from engaging in citizens in a democratic society."

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