Women Know Less About Politics Than Men, Especially In Britain, Study Finds

Women still know less about politics than men despite progress in sexual equality, especially in Britain, academics have said.

A study of 10 nations found an "unmistakable gender gap" even in apparently progressive richer nations.

The division was particularly stark in Britain, which was found to have the second-widest gulf in knowledge between the sexes.

Women still know less about politics than men, a study has found

An in-depth report partly blamed a lack of female faces on television news for putting women off current affairs.

Researchers from Goldsmiths, University of London, put a series of multiple choice questions to men and women in Australia, Canada, Colombia, Greece, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Norway, the UK and the US.

British men scored an average of 5.8 correct answers out of eight on subjects such as the name of the United Nations secretary general, the national unemployment rate and what job Vladimir Putin did.

Their female counterparts got just under half (3.9) right - a gender gap second only to Norway.

The findings sparked intense debate on social media, with many blaming politicians and broadcasters for the lack of female political faces.

Greece, South Korea and Colombia had the smallest differences.

Professor James Curran said the findings were "really very surprising".

"Our findings 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," the director of the Leverhulme Media Research Centre at Goldsmiths said.

"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.

"Whatever the reasons, our research shows that globally in the 21st century those who are most likely to be knowledgeable about politics and current affairs are older men in advanced industrial nations."

Analysis of primetime TV news coverage found it was "heavily weighted towards male sources", with women interviewed and cited in fewer than a third (30%) of news stories and more likely to be included in "soft news topics such as family, lifestyle and culture".

It said watching, reading and listening to the news was "very much a male activity", with British men claiming to be "significantly more" exposed to it than women.

Co-author Kaori Hayashi 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 as citizens in a democratic society."

Prof Hayashi added: "It seems that gaps in exposure to media are related to the gaps of knowledge between men and women.

"The reasons why women watch less TV, read fewer newspapers and listen to less radio programmes in many countries than men could include the discouragingly male bias of much media content, less leisure time because of the greater unpaid work undertaken by women in the home and persistent social norms and expectations inherited from the past."

The gaps were significantly smaller when the two groups were posed so-called "soft" questions on topics such as celebrity news, sport and scandal, the researchers said.

"Despite our best efforts, men are frequently over-represented on the programme," Channel 4 news presenter Cathy Newman wrote in the Telegraph. "So I believe women who have managed to shatter those glass ceilings need to stand up and be counted.

"A gender gap in political understanding and more importantly interest, will persist if women in positions of knowledge and power repeatedly leave the blokes to hog the studio."