Across the world, women know less about politics than men

Women are less knowledgeable about current affairs and spend less time watching the news, the survey suggests
Women are less knowledgeable about current affairs and spend less time watching the news, the survey suggests
Ian Dunt By

Women across the world know less about politics and current affairs than their male counterparts, even under the most progressive gender equality regimes.

A ten-country study by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) found that the 'gender gap' in political knowledge actually tends to be higher in advanced economies such as the United Kingdom and United States than in less advanced economies such as Colombia.

"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," James Curran, director of the Goldsmiths Leverhulme Media Research Centre at University of London, 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."

Researchers surveyed men and women's knowledge of domestic and international affairs in Australia, Canada, Colombia, Greece, Italy, Japan, Korea, Norway, the UK and the US for the study.

They found a significantly higher level of male contributors to news stories and suggested this could be discouraging women's interest in current affairs.

Overall, women were only interviewed or cited in 30% of TV news stories in the ten nations.

They tended to appear more often in longer news items and were overrepresented for softer news topics, like family and lifestyle.

"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," co-researcher Kaori Hayashi said.

Interestingly, the survey also found that the public were better informed when they chose public service broadcasters rather than commercial providers.

"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," Professor Curran said.

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