Conflict is inherent to democratic politics, and citizens are regularly confronted with polarizing and conflicting viewpoints. Given this, surprisingly little research has systematically explored attitudes towards political conflict, and gender cleavages therein. Yet, women are known to generally engage less in politics, and a tendency to be more likely to avoid interpersonal political conflict than men may be an important barrier for women to get actively involved in politics. Therefore, using the 2011 British Democratic Disconnect and Political Participation Survey, we test whether a gender difference in political conflict avoidance exists, and how this matters for gender gaps in political engagement. We confirm that among our British sample, women feel less comfortable with interpersonal political conflict than men, even when controlling for political interest and efficacy. Furthermore, we find that political conflict avoidance is negatively related to participation in general and – to a lesser extent – to partisan-oriented political activities, independent of political interest and efficacy. In combination with political interest and efficacy, political conflict avoidance also helps to explain the gender gap in political engagement.
|E-pub ahead of print - 9 Jun 2017