That's a ridiculous question, right? Just think about the people you know. Does it really seem like one sex know way more about politics than the other? (Important side note: if you are only friends with one sex, I don't want to tell you you're doing it wrong. But you might well be.)
But of course, that's just anecdata. Whereas the statement 'women know less about politics than men' is based on research. Specifically, research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.
The study took place in ten countries: Australia, Canada, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Norway, the UK and the United States.
The researchers also noted some points that could contribute to this:
- News coverage is heavily weighted toward male sources even in countries such as the UK and Australia where gender equality ratings are relatively high. Overall, women are only interviewed or cited in 30 per cent of TV news stories in the ten nations.
- In all ten countries, female sources tend only to appear in longer news items or articles and are preferred for soft news topics such as family, lifestyle and culture.
That's not hugely surprising. Is the point about the gender divide?
It's tempting to say that it must be unrepresentative. The research talked to 1,000 people in each country â hardly a representative sample of the population.
But maybe it's also to do with how they framed the questions. Professor Curran states that "If there was more about health and education and less about the Westminster bubble, it would be more interesting to women," and this statement is agreed with by opinion pollster Deborah Mattinson, founder and director of Britain Thinks, who states:
I think most people probably know more about politics than they say they do.
That seems like a more likely explanation. I think most people probably know more about politics than they say they do. Or than that might be captured by a questionnaire asking about national policy and the games played in Westminster and its equivalents.
There was a great advert aimed at encouraging people to vote a few years ago that featured someone in a pub saying they didn't care about politics - and then having opinions about everything from the price of beer to local employment options, education and roads. It made the point well that - whether or not you agree that it should be - politics touches most parts of our lives. You might think you can opt out or not have an opinion, but it's unlikely that you are totally apolitical.
However I'm not sure that we should discount the way that women's contributions are routinely dismissed not only by themselves but also by the men in power.
Whether it's D-Cam telling a woman to "calm down dear", or Boris Johnson saying that women go to university to earn their M.R.S and find husbands. Ah. Boris. Doing a great impression of a slightly overstuffed genial scarecrow. Secretly (or not so secretly) a bit of a raging misogynist. Old school sexism from an old-school Tory? Shocking.
Or maybe just a reminder that things aren't quite as balanced as they could be.