The modernisation of Spain reduces the gender gap in political knowledge

Rosa Roig, Cristina Aybar and José Manuel Pavía, professors at the University of Valencia, have concluded that the gender gap in political knowledge narrows as the modernisation process of Spain progresses. After analysing 600,000 CIS surveys from 1996 to 2017, in an article published in the scientific journal Sustainability, they affirm that transformation in a post-industrial country affects traditional gender roles and cultural patterns, which in turn impacts the political behaviour of its citizens, with female access to political knowledge.Rosa Roig

“The modernisation process in Spain has led to the empowerment of women through intangible (education, contacts, information) and tangible (economic) resources with a direct impact on women’s political knowledge, which has reduced the gender gap and has represented another step towards building a sustainable society”, highlighted the research team of the Constitutional Law-Political Science and Applied Economics Departments.

The study has been carried out within the framework of the United Nations SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) for 2030 and, in particular, objective 5, which refers to gender equality. The Valencian team, according to researchers Delli Carpini and Keeter, considers that political knowledge is essential for the full political participation of citizens and that this fact reinforces democracy. The less political knowledge, the less interest and political participation, as indicated by several investigations. “Therefore, for the construction of an inclusive and sustainable society, it is necessary to guarantee the full and efficient participation of women in all areas of the political decision process and to close the gender gap in political knowledge”, Rosa Roig highlights.

The UV group has analysed the 242 monthly barometers of the 22-year-old CIS (1996-2017) and in them, individual variables such as educational level and socio-occupational position, and other contextual variables, such as the change in cultural values and the political-legal framework. They have focused on section A.3. of these barometers, political culture, as well as the part that collects information on educational level and socio-economic status.

The UV study combines sociological and political approaches according to Inglehart and Norris’ theory of development on the gender gap, whose central thesis is that modernisation entails systematic and predictable changes in gender roles. Roig, Aybar and Pavia’s concept of modernisation of Spain refers to the changes that took place until the end of the twentieth century, such as the massive incorporation of women to the labour market, the legal framework and public policies on gender equality and the consolidation of post-materialist values such as freedom and equality between genders.

A series of changes that modify traditional gender roles (where women are responsible for caring for the family at home, and men hold the role of economic agent who works outside the family unit). In this context, gender equality stands as a priority value and new cultural guidelines are generated. From this perspective, the transformation of Spain from a dictatorship with a semi-closed economy to a liberal democracy with a free market economy modifies traditional roles and encourages female access to political knowledge.

This research has been funded by the Valencian Government (Department of Innovation, Universities, Science and Digital Society), the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities, and the State Research Agency. It also made use of a contribution by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Rosa Roig, Cristina Aybar, Jose M. Pavía «Gender Inequalities and Social Sustainability. Can Modernization Diminish the Gender Gap in Political Knowledge?» Sustainability 2020, 12, 3143; doi:10.3390/su12083143