Adam Davis—May 25, 2015
Remember “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus,” the book written by American author and relationship counselor John Gray? Indeed, when it comes to their feelings about many public-policy issues, female Oregonians may indeed be from Venus and males from Mars.
The average temperature on Venus is 864 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s a lot hotter than on Mars, where the temperatures near the poles can get down to minus 195 degrees. This pretty well describes what we see in Oregon: Women and men register different temperatures on many issues. Considering the increasing number of women assuming leadership positions in society, it is important to understand these differences, for they may foreshadow a different kind of solar system for Oregon and the nation in the future.
Women and men fall differently on the political spectrum. Women are less likely than men to consider themselves conservatives and to instead be liberal or moderate on issues. In the 2013 Oregon Values and Beliefs Survey, 41 percent of men consider themselves conservative on most economic issues, compared to 27 percent of women. A related finding from the same survey shows women are less likely to think that government provides too many services.
Hot issues for women are different than those for men. Women are more likely to say they are worried about their family’s personal financial situation than men, and they’re almost twice as likely to feel very worried. They also are more supportive of increasing the state minimum wage. Women show concern for how the economy grows more so than men. They feel our country would be better off if we all consumed less and agree that protection of the environment should be given priority over economic growth.
Women respond warmly to environmental protection issues. They are more likely to feel that climate change requires us to change our way of life, to support government investment in alternative fuel production, and want to expand public transportation rather than build new roads.
On the other hand, women show cooler reception to the status quo on gun control and the penal system. Gun control was a topic in a recently completed statewide survey for Oregon Public Broadcasting and a majority of women (55 percent) favor a law that would ban the sale and possession of assault weapons, compared to 44 percent of men. Women also are more likely to think that criminals should be rehabilitated rather than locked up.
Two more important issues for women are health care and inequality. More women than men support publicly funded health insurance, government cost controls for essential health care services, and having a health care system that rewards healthy behaviors and wellness. They also are more likely than men to feel — and feel strongly — that discrimination against minorities is still a serious problem in our nation and that there’s a need to dramatically reduce the inequalities.
There you have it, women from Venus, men from Mars. Should we be surprised? Not really. Historically, women care about and prioritize issues differently than men. Women are increasingly in position to leverage their concerns to effect change, however. More women than men are graduating from college every year, where they outperform their male counterparts. In addition, women also are healthier, more civically engaged, and have higher job satisfaction. All these characteristics are important components of leadership.
I got a glimpse of this while attending the Portland Business Journal’s Women of Influence Awards banquet earlier this month. The few males in attendance could not help but be impressed with the smarts, personality and achievements of this year’s award recipients and the hundreds of other women in attendance. I’d add that many of the guys present at the event also had to feel hopeful. Before us was the future leadership of our community and the state in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. May the force be with them.
Adam Davis, who has been conducting opinion research in Oregon for more than 35 years, is a founding principal at DHM Research.