It treats a huge bloc of people living very different lives as though they were a homogenous groupby Jessica Abrahams / March 25, 2015 / Leave a comment
The question of how to appeal to female voters seems to cause trouble every time an election rolls around. It is received wisdom that women are less likely to vote; that they are less concerned with “big picture issues” like the economy and more concerned with their family and household; and that the Tories have a particular problem with them. A concerned David Cameron appointed Laura Trott as a policy advisor on women, the first post of its kind, in 2012, while Labour dispatched a pink campaign bus in February to tour the country “talking to women voters at school gates, in workplaces [and] shopping centres” about “Labour’s commitments to women.” Commentators are asking if women could decide the election.
Women will indeed decide the election, since 52 per cent of UK adults are female. But they don’t vote so differently from men. Instead, the recurrent focus on the “women’s vote” is reflective of the fact that the political sphere is still overwhelmingly male.
Despite Harriet Harman’s recent claim that women are less likely to vote than men, the gap is more or less non-existent: there was a 1 per cent difference in turnout at the general election in 2010, and that narrowed to a 0.1 per cent gender difference in the UK turnout for the European elections last year. Women, however, are more likely to make their mind up closer to polling day. In its summary of February results, Populus found that 22.4 per cent of women say they don’t know who they’ll vote for yet, compared with 10 per cent of men.
This doesn’t explain the fuss surrounding the women’s vote, though. Not only do men and women vote in roughly equal numbers, they also vote in more or less the same way. With the exception of the UK Independence Party, which is much more popular among men, none of the main parties show any significant gender gap. Historically, the Conservatives had an advantage among women. This shifted during the New Labour years and the Labour Party is now considered to be…